Cytoprotection of pancreatic islets before and early after transplantation using gene therapy

Juan L. Contreras, Guadalupe Bilbao, Cheryl A. Smyth, Devin E. Eckhoff, Xiao L. Jiang, Stacie Jenkins, Francis T. Thomas, David T. Curiel, Judith M. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Pancreatic islet transplantation (PIT) is an attractive alternative to insulin-dependent diabetes treatment but is not yet a clinical reality. The first few days after PIT are characterized by substantial pancreatic islet dysfunction and death. Apoptosis has been documented in PI after extracellular matrix removal, during culture time, after exposure to proinflammatory cytokines, hypoxic conditions before islet revascularization, and rejection. Targeting the apoptosis pathway by adenoviral-mediated gene transfer of the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 gene exerts a major cytoprotective effect on isolated macaque pancreatic islets. Bcl-2 transfection ex vivo protects islets from apoptosis induced by disruption of the islet extracellular matrix during pancreatic digestion. Additionally, over-expression of Bcl-2 confers long-term, stable protection and maintenance of functional islet mass after transplantation into diabetic SCID mice. Genetic modification of PI also reduced the islet mass required to achieve stable euglycemia. Ex vivo gene transfer of anti-apoptotic genes has potential as a therapeutic approach to both minimize loss of functional islet mass post-transplant and reduce the high islet requirement currently needed for successful stable reversal of insulin-dependent diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S79-S84
JournalKidney International
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Bcl-2 gene
  • Gene therapy
  • Islet transplantation


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