Size effect of engineered islets prepared using microfabricated wells on islet cell function and arrangement

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Pancreatic islets are heterogeneous clusters mainly composed of α and β cells, and these clusters range in diameter from 50 to several hundred micrometers. Native small islets are known to have a higher insulin secretion ability in vitro and to provide better transplantation outcomes when compared with large islets. In this study, we prepared microengineered pseudo-islets from dispersed rat islet cells using precisely-fabricated agarose gel-based microwells with different diameters (100, 300, or 500 μm) to investigate the function and survival of islet cell aggregates with well-controlled sizes. We observed that dead cells were rarely present in the small pseudo-islets with an average diameter of ∼60 μm prepared using 100 μm microwells. In contrast, we observed more dead cells in the larger pseudo-islets prepared using 300 and 500 μm microwells. The relative amount of hypoxic cells was significantly low in the small pseudo-islets whereas a hypoxic condition was present in the core region of the larger pseudo-islets. In addition, we found that the small-sized pseudo-islets reconstituted the in vivo-tissue like arrangement of the α and β cells, and restored the high insulin secretory capacity in response to high glucose. These results clearly suggest that precise size control of pseudo-islets is essential for maintaining islet cell function and survival in vitro. The small-sized pseudo-islets may be advantageous for providing a better therapeutic approach for treating type 1 diabetes mellitus via islet reorganization and transplantation.

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Ichihara, Y., Utoh, R., Yamada, M., Shimizu, T., & Uchigata, Y. (2016). Size effect of engineered islets prepared using microfabricated wells on islet cell function and arrangement. Heliyon, 2(6).

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