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Enzymatic digestion of the pancreas during islet isolation is associated with disintegration of the islet basement membrane (IBM) that can cause reduction of functional and morphological islet integrity. Attempts to re-establish IBM by coating the surface of culture vessels with various IBM proteins (IBMP) have resulted in loss of islet phenotype and function. This study investigated the capability of Collagen-IV, Laminin-521 and Nidogen-1, utilised as single or combined media supplements, to protect human islets cultured in hypoxia. When individually supplemented to media, all IBMP significantly improved islet survival and in-vitro function, finally resulting in as much as a two-fold increase of islet overall survival. In contrast, combining IBMP enhanced the production of chemokines and reactive oxygen species diminishing all positive effects of individually added IBMP. This impact was concentration-dependent and concerned nearly all parameters of islet integrity. Predictive extrapolation of these findings to data from 116 processed human pancreases suggests that more than 90% of suboptimal pancreases could be rescued for clinical islet transplantation increasing the number of transplantable preparations from actual 25 to 40 when adding Nidogen-1 to pretransplant culture. This study suggests that media supplementation with essential IBMP protects human islets from hypoxia. Amongst those, certain IBMP may be incompatible when combined or applied at higher concentrations. Statement of significance: Pancreatic islet transplantation is a minimally-invasive treatment that can reverse type 1 diabetes in certain patients. It involves infusing of insulin-producing cell-clusters (islets) from donor pancreases. Unfortunately, islet extraction is associated with damage of the islet basement membrane (IBM) causing reduced islet function and cell death. Attempts to re-establish the IBM by coating the surface of culture vessels with IBM proteins (IBMP) have been unsuccessful. Instead, we dissolved the most relevant IBM components Collagen-IV, Laminin-521 and Nidogen-1 in media routinely used for clinical islet culture and transplantation. We found human islet survival and function was substantially improved by IBMP, particularly Nidogen-1, when exposed to a hypoxic environment as found in vivo. We also investigated IBMP combinations. Our present findings have important clinical implications.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta Biomater

Publication Date



Extracellular matrix proteins, human islet isolation, hypoxia, inflammation, marginal pancreases