Rev Diabet Stud, 2017, 14(1):22-38 DOI 10.1900/RDS.2017.14.22

Enzyme Development for Human Islet Isolation: Five Decades of Progress or Stagnation?

Daniel Brandhorst, Heide Brandhorst, Paul R.V. Johnson

Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Address correspondence to: Daniel Brandhorst, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Level 6, Headley Way, OX3 9DU, Oxford, United Kingdom, email:


In comparison to procedures used for the separation of individual cell types from other organs, the process of human pancreatic islet isolation aims to digest the pancreatic exocrine matrix completely without dispersing the individual cells within the endocrine cell cluster. This objective is unique within the field of tissue separation, and outlines the challenge of islet isolation to balance two opposing priorities. Although significant progress has been made in the characterization and production of enzyme blends for islet isolation, there are still numerous areas which require improvement. The ultimate goal of enzyme production, namely the routine production of a consistent and standardized enzyme blend, has still not been realized. This seems to be mainly the result of a lack of detailed knowledge regarding the structure of the pancreatic extracellular matrix and the synergistic interplay between collagenase and different supplementary proteases during the degradation of the extracellular matrix. Furthermore, the activation of intrinsic proteolytic enzymes produced by the pancreatic acinar cells, also impacts on the chance of a successful outcome of human islet isolation. This overview discusses the challenges of pancreatic enzymatic digestion during human islet isolation, and outlines the developments in this field over the past 5 decades.

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Rev Diabet Stud, 2017, 14(1):39-50 DOI 10.1900/RDS.2017.14.39

The Nexus of Stem Cell-Derived Beta-Cells and Genome Engineering

Sara D. Sackett, Aida Rodriguez, Jon S. Odorico

Division of Transplantation, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1111 Highland Ave, Madison, WI 53711, USA
Address correspondence to: Sara Dutton Sackett, email:


Diabetes, type 1 and type 2 (T1D and T2D), are diseases of epidemic proportions, which are complicated and defined by genetics, epigenetics, environment, and lifestyle choices. Current therapies consist of whole pancreas or islet transplantation. However, these approaches require life-time immunosuppression, and are compounded by the paucity of available donors. Pluripotent stem cells have advanced research in the fields of stem cell biology, drug development, disease modeling, and regenerative medicine, and importantly allows for the interrogation of therapeutic interventions. Recent developments in beta-cell differentiation and genomic modifications are now propelling investigations into the mechanisms behind beta-cell failure and autoimmunity, and offer new strategies for reducing the propensity for immunogenicity. This review discusses the derivation of endocrine lineage cells from human pluripotent stem cells for the treatment of diabetes, and how the editing or manipulation of their genomes can transcend many of the remaining challenges of stem cell technologies, leading to superior transplantation and diabetes drug discovery platforms.

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Rev Diabet Stud, 2017, 14(1):51-78 DOI 10.1900/RDS.2017.14.51

Encapsulated Islet Transplantation: Where Do We Stand?

Vijayaganapathy Vaithilingam1,2, Sumeet Bal1, Bernard E. Tuch3

1Materials Science and Engineering, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia
2Romvijay Biootech Private Limited, Kanniakoil, Pondicherry, India
3School of Medical Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Address correspondence to: Vijayaganapathy Vaithilingam, email:


Transplantation of pancreatic islets encapsulated within immuno-protective microcapsules is a strategy that has the potential to overcome graft rejection without the need for toxic immunosuppressive medication. However, despite promising preclinical studies, clinical trials using encapsulated islets have lacked long-term efficacy, and although generally considered clinically safe, have not been encouraging overall. One of the major factors limiting the long-term function of encapsulated islets is the host’s immunological reaction to the transplanted graft which is often manifested as pericapsular fibrotic overgrowth (PFO). PFO forms a barrier on the capsule surface that prevents the ingress of oxygen and nutrients leading to islet cell starvation, hypoxia and death. The mechanism of PFO formation is still not elucidated fully, and studies using a pig model have tried to understand the host immune response to empty alginate microcapsules. In this review, the varied strategies to overcome or reduce PFO are discussed, including alginate purification, altering microcapsule geometry, modifying alginate chemical composition, co-encapsulation with immunomodulatory cells, administration of pharmacological agents, and alternative transplantation sites. Nanoencapsulation technologies, such as conformal and layer-by-layer coating technologies, as well as nanofiber, thin-film nanoporous devices, and silicone-based NanoGland devices are also addressed. Finally, this review outlines recent progress in imaging technologies to track encapsulated cells, as well as promising perspectives concerning the production of insulin-producing cells from stem cells for encapsulation.

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