No previous study has measured the oxygenation of intraportally transplanted islets, although recent data suggest that insufficient engraftment may result in hypoxia and loss of islet cells.
After intraportal infusion into syngeneic mice, islet oxygenation was investigated in 1-day-old, 1-month-old, or 3-month-old grafts and compared with renal subcapsular grafts and native islets. Animals received an intravenous injection of pimonidazole for immunohistochemical detection of low-oxygenated islet cells (pO 2 <10 mmHg), and caspase-3 immunostaining was performed to assess apoptosis rates in adjacent tissue sections.
In the native pancreas of nontransplanted animals, ∼30% of the islets stained positive for pimonidazole. In 1-day-old and 1-month-old grafts, the percentage of pimonidazole-positive islets in the liver was twice that of native islets, whereas this increase was abolished in 3-month-old grafts. Beneath the renal capsule, pimonidazole accumulation was, however, similar to native islets at all time points. Apoptosis rates were markedly increased in 1-day-old intrahepatic grafts compared with corresponding renal islet grafts, which were slightly increased compared with native islets. One month posttransplantation renal subcapsular grafts had similar frequencies of apoptosis as native islets, whereas apoptosis in intraportally implanted islets was still high. In the liver, islet graft vascular density increased between 1 and 3 months posttransplantation, and apoptosis rates simultaneously dropped to values similar to those observed in native islets.