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Previous studies in rodents have indicated that function and survival of transplanted islets can be substantially improved by mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). The few human islet studies to date have confirmed these findings but have not determined whether physical contact between MSC and islets is required or whether the benefit to islets results from MSC-secreted proteins. This study aimed to investigate the protective capacity of MSC-preconditioned media for human islets. MSC were cultured for 2 or 5 days in normoxia or hypoxia before harvesting the cell-depleted media for human islet culture in normoxia or hypoxia for 6-8 or 3-4 days, respectively. To characterize MSC-preconditioned media, proteomic secretome profiling was performed to identify angiogenesis- and inflammation-related proteins. A protective effect of MSC-preconditioned media on survival and in vitro function of hypoxic human islets was observed irrespective of the atmosphere used for MSC preconditioning. Islet morphology changed markedly when media from hypoxic MSC were used for culture. However, PDX-1 and insulin gene expression did not confirm a change in the genetic phenotype of these islets. Proteomic profiling of preconditioned media revealed the heterogenicity of the secretome comprising angiogenic and antiapoptotic as well as angiostatic or proinflammatory mediators released at an identical pattern regardless whether MSC had been cultured in normoxic or hypoxic atmosphere. These findings do not allow a clear discrimination between normoxia and hypoxia as stimulus for protective MSC capabilities but indicate an ambivalent character of the MSC angiogenesis- and inflammation-related secretome. Nevertheless, culture of human islets in acellular MSC-preconditioned media resulted in improved morphological and functional islet integrity suggesting a disbalance in favor of protective factors. Further approaches should aim to eliminate potentially detrimental factors to enable the production of advanced clinical grade islet culture media with higher protective qualities.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Transplant

Publication Date





cell culture, human islets, hypoxia, mesenchymal stem cells, preconditioning, secretome, Cell Differentiation, Cell Lineage, Cells, Cultured, Culture Media, Conditioned, Humans, Hypoxia, Immunophenotyping, Islets of Langerhans, Mesenchymal Stem Cells, Proteome, Proteomics