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Background: Most islet transplant groups worldwide routinely use the TNFα inhibitor Etanercept in their peri-transplant protocols. Surprisingly, there have been no published dose-response studies on the effects of Etanercept on human islets. Our study aimed to address this by treating cultured human islets with increasing concentrations of Etanercept. Materials and Methods: Isolated human islets were cultured for 3-4 days in normoxic (21% oxygen) or in hypoxic (2% oxygen) atmosphere using Etanercept dissolved in a range of 2.5-40 µg/mL prior to islet characterisation. Results: In normoxic atmosphere, it was found that 5 µg/mL is the most efficient dose to preserve islet morphological and functional integrity during culture. Increasing the dose to 10 µg/mL or more resulted in detrimental effects with respect to viability and glucose-stimulated insulin release. When human islets were cultured for 3 to 4 days in clinically relevant hypoxia and treated with 5 µg/mL Etanercept, post-culture islet survival (P < 0.001) and in vitro function (P < 0.01) were significantly improved. This correlated with a substantially reduced cytokine production (P < 0.05), improved mitochondrial function (P < 0.01), and reduced production of reactive oxygen species (P < 0.001) in hypoxia-exposed islets. Conclusion: These findings suggest that the therapeutic window of Etanercept is very narrow and that this should be considered when optimising the dosage and route of Etanercept administration in islet-transplant recipients or when designing novel drug-delivering islet scaffolds.

Original publication




Journal article


J Inflamm Res

Publication Date





599 - 610


Etanercept, cytokines, human islet transplantation, hypoxia, inflammation