Background. Subcutaneous pouch is a potential site for islet transplantation. However, insufficient oxygen supply remains challenging. Pretreatment of neovascularization using basic fibroblast growth factor can solve this, but it needs 2× operations. We developed a device that contains rat islets in chitosan gel packed in a bag made of highly biocompatible ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer porous membrane. This study investigated whether coencapsulation of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) with islets in the device enables novel method of prevascularization-free primary subcutaneous transplantation. Methods. In vitro experiments examined slow release of HGF from the chitosan gel and islet-protection effect of HGF against hypoxia. In the latter, rat islets with/without HGF (200 ng/mL) was cultured in 1% oxygen. In in vivo experiment, fabricated device with/without HGF (10 μg/device) containing rat islets was primarily transplanted to streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice subcutaneously. Results. In vitro experiments showed sustained release of HGF for 28 d and alleviating effect of HGF on cell death and glucose-responsive insulin release after hypoxic culture. Islet + HGF mice, but not islet-alone mice, showed decreased nonfasting blood glucose and regained body weight after transplantation. In intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test, islet + HGF mice exhibited decreased fasting blood glucose (200 ± 55 mg/dL) and good blood glucose disappearance rate (K value) (0.817 ± 0.101) comparing to normal mice (123 ± 28 mg/dL and 1.074 ± 0.374, respectively). However, in islet-alone mice, fasting blood glucose was high (365 ± 172 mg/dL) and K value was indeterminable. Serum insulin in islet + HGF mice (1.58 ± 0.94 μg/L) was close to normal mice (1.66 ± 0.55 μg/L), whereas those in islet-alone mice (0.279 ± 0.076 μg/L) and diabetic mice (0.165 ± 0.079 μg/L) were low. Immunohistochemical examination showed intact insulin- and glucagon-positive islets in retrieved devices with HGF, but no intact islet was found in the device without HGF. Conclusions. HGF could enhance islet survival in hypoxia and enhance in vivo function of encapsulated islets after primary subcutaneous transplantation.
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