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Pancreatic islet macroencapsulation using microwell porous membranes.

ABSTRACT

Allogeneic islet transplantation into the liver in combination with immune suppressive drug therapy is widely regarded as a potential cure for type 1 diabetes. However, the intrahepatic system is suboptimal as the concentration of drugs and nutrients there is higher compared to pancreas, which negatively affects islet function. Islet encapsulation within semipermeable membranes is a promising strategy that allows for the islet transplantation outside the suboptimal liver portal system and provides environment, where islets can perform their endocrine function. In this study, we develop a macroencapsulation device based on thin microwell membranes. The islets are seeded in separate microwells to avoid aggregation, whereas the membrane porosity is tailored to achieve sufficient transport of nutrients, glucose and insulin. The non-degradable, microwell membranes are composed of poly (ether sulfone)/polyvinylpyrrolidone and manufactured via phase separation micro molding. Our results show that the device prevents aggregation and preserves the islet's native morphology. Moreover, the encapsulated islets maintain their glucose responsiveness and function after 7 days of culture (stimulation index above 2 for high glucose stimulation), demonstrating the potential of this novel device for islet transplantation.