2, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, United States
3, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, United States
Pancreatic islet transplantation is a promising approach of providing insulin in type 1 diabetes. One strategy to protect islets from the host immune system is encapsulation within a porous biocompatible alginate membrane. This encapsulation provides mechanical support to the cells and allows selective diffusion of oxygen, nutrients and insulin while blocking immunoglobulins. These hydrogels form by diffusion of calcium ions into the polymer network and therefore they are highly sensitive to environmental changes and fluctuations in temperature. We investigated the effects of gel concentration, crosslinking time and ambient conditions on material permeability, volume, and rigidity, all of which may change the immunoisolating characteristics of alginate. To measure diffusion coefficient as a method to capture structural changes we studied the diffusion of fluorescently tagged dextrans of different molecular weight into the midplane of alginate microcapsules, the diffusion coefficient is then calculated by fitting observed fluorescence dynamics to the mathematical solution of 1-D diffusion into a sphere. These measurements were performed after incubation in different conditions as well as after an in vivo experiment in six immunocompetent mice for seven days. Additionally, the changes in gel volume after incubation at different temperatures and environmental conditions as well as changes in compression modulus of alginate gels during crosslinking were investigated. Our result show that increase of polymer concentration and crosslinking time leads to a decrease in volume and increase in compression modulus. Furthermore, we found that samples crosslinked and placed in physiological environment, experience an increase in volume. As expected, these volume changes affect diffusion rates of fluorescent dextrans, where volume expansion is correlated with higher calculated diffusion coefficient. This observation is critical to islet protection since higher permeability due to the expansion in vivo may lead to increased permeability to immunoglobulins. Capsules from the in vivo study showed similar volume expansion and increased permeability, indicating our in vitro assay is a good predictor of volume change in vivo.