Long-term controlled normoglycemia in diabetic non-human primates after transplantation with hCD46 transgenic porcine islets
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Xenotransplantation of porcine islets into diabetic non-human primates is characterized by (i) an initial massive graft loss possibly due to the instant blood-mediated inflammatory reaction and (ii) the requirement of intensive, clinically unfriendly immunosuppressive therapy. We investigated whether the transgenic expression of a human complement-regulatory protein (hCD46) on porcine islets would improve the outcome of islet xenotransplantation in streptozotocin-induced diabetic Cynomolgus monkeys. Immunosuppression consisted of thymoglobulin, anti-CD154 mAb for costimulation blockade, and mycophenolate mofetil. Following the transplantation of islets from wild-type pigs (n = 2) or from 1,3-galactosyltransferase gene-knockout pigs (n = 2), islets survived for a maximum of only 46 days, as evidenced by return to hyperglycemia and the need for exogenous insulin therapy. The transplantation of islets from hCD46 pigs resulted in graft survival and insulin-independent normoglycemia in four of five monkeys for the 3 months follow-up of the experiment. One normalized recipient, selected at random, was followed for >12 months. Inhibition of complement activation by the expression of hCD46 on the pig islets did not substantially reduce the initial loss of islet mass, rather was effective in limiting antibody-mediated rejection. This resulted in a reduced need for immunosuppression to preserve a sufficient islet mass to maintain normoglycemia long-term.