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Mark D Stegall
Ann Transplant 1997; 2(3): 8-11
Objectives: Despite the increasing success of whole-organ pancreas transplantation. the success of clinical islet allografts has remained limited. One of the factors limiting the success is the difficulty in monitoring islet allografts after transplantation. The aim of these studies is to develop a method of "biopsying" human islet allografts using a forearm islet implantation site. Methods: A subtherapeutic number of isolated human islets were placed in the forearm under the muscle fascia in three human recipients with Type I insulin dependent diabetes. All of the recipients had undergone successful cadaveric renal transplantation at least one year prior and were maintained on their baseline immunosuppression. Aliquots of the islet grafts were removed 7 and 14 days to assess engraftment and graft infiltrate. To verify that the islets wereviable. 400 were handpicked and transplanted into B6-scid mice made diabetic with streptozotocin. Results: The biopsy site was found in all three cases. In one patient, no islets were recovered. In two other patients, viable islet tissue was recovered 7 days after transplantation. Immunohistology at 7 days showed the presence of both insulin and glucagon-staining cells in the islets. At 14 days in these two patients, a mononuclear cell infiltrate was observed in the explanted islet biopsies. Immunohistology showed the relative absence of insulin-staining cells with intact glucagon-staining cells. This finding is consistent with recurrent autoimmunity in the islet grafts. Discussion: This preliminary study shows that the forearm biopsy site is a useful method to retrieve human islet grafts after transplantation. The islets engraft and are easily found in the first weeks after transplantation. These data suggest that recurrent autoimmunity may affect islet allografts. Further studies will be needed to determine if the histology in the forearm will correlate with the fate of intraportal or intraperitoneal islet allografts. Although they were shown to reduce the incidence of early allograft failure. their influence on the long-term graft survival remains to be proven.