DRI to Present Alternative Transplant Site Research

Miami (July 2010) – Dr. Norma Kenyon is part of a team of DRI researchers whose work in identifying alternative sites for transplanted islets has been selected for presentation at the prestigious Transplantation Society’s 23rd Congress in Vancouver, Canada.

Together with Dr. Camillo Ricordi, DRI’s scientific director, Dr. Cherie Stabler, director of the Institute’s Tissue Engineering program , Dr. Kenyon and colleagues are exploring the potential of biohybrid devices called “scaffolds” to house and protect transplanted insulin-producing cells.  The three-dimensional devices, developed by the DRI, are designed to closely mimic the natural pancreatic environment and are being tested in several sites in the body, such as under the skin, in muscle tissue and in an abdominal “pouch.”

In addition to providing structural support for the islets, a recent pre-clinical study shows the scaffolds can also be used to deliver beneficial agents (other cells) to further increase the viability of transplanted cells.  DRI researchers co-transplanted Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) alongside the islets into the scaffolds. MSCs are known to accelerate the growth of blood vessels which is critical for the long-term survival of islets.

In the study, one recipient of the MSC/islet combination became insulin independent and two others are currently being followed to determine if they can also achieve insulin independence.

The results of the study are encouraging and are an important step toward our goal of achieving long-term success with islet transplantation. In the past decade, there has been mounting evidence that the liver, where islets are currently transplanted, may not be the optimal transplant site – and that new approaches are needed to create safer and less toxic surroundings for transplanted cells. The biohybrid “scaffold” continues to show potential as an environment where transplanted islets can thrive.

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