Immunoisolation of pancreatic islets is extensively investigated for glycemic control in diabetic experimental animals. We previously reported that subcutaneous xenotransplantation of bovine islets protected by a selective polysulfone membrane successfully controlled glycemia in diabetic rats for up to 20 days. We then wondered whether immunoisolated islets have adequate oxygen supply in this device, where only diffusive transport allows cell function and survival. Here we set up an experimental technique to measure oxygen consumption rate (OCR) using a Clark's electrode inserted in a glass thermostated chamber connected to a data recorder and acquisition system. Bovine islets were isolated from 6-month-old calves, encapsulated in sodium alginate microcapsules or inserted in polysulfone hollow fibers. After 1 and 2 days in culture a series of measurements was performed using free islets (at normal or high-glucose concentration), islets encapsulated in microcapsules, or in hollow fibers. In free islets OCR averaged from 2.0 ± 0.8 pmol/IEQ/min at low-glucose concentration and from 2.5 ± 1.0 pmol/IEQ/min at high-glucose concentration (p < 0.01). OCR in islets encapsulated in microcapsules and in hollow fibers was comparable, and not significantly different from that measured in free islets. Two days after isolation OCR averaged 2.3 ± 0.6 in free islets, 2.3 ± 0.9 in alginate microcapsules, and 2.2 ± 0.7 pmol/IEQ/min in hollow fibers. These results show that OCR by bovine islets is comparable to that previously reported for other species. OCR increases in islets stimulated with high glucose and may be considered as a functional index. Moreover, islet encapsulation in alginate microcapsule, as well as in hollow fiber membranes, did not significantly affect in vitro OCR, suggesting adequate islet oxygenation in these conditions.
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