Encapsulation of Protein Microfiber Networks Supporting Pancreatic Islets
Steele, Joseph Allan McKinnon
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A method was developed to produce and incorporate a network of discrete, genipin-crosslinked gelatin microfibers around a pancreatic islet within a barium alginate microcapsule. This technique allows for the encapsulation of a porous fibrous matrix without the geometrical restrictions required for cellular aggregate seeding. Microfibers were produced from a novel vortex-drawn extrusion system with an alginate support matrix. Optimization culminated in a hydrated fiber diameter of 22.3 ± 0.4 μm, a 98% reduction in cross sectional area, while making the process more reliable and less labour intensive. The optimized microfibers were encapsulated at 40 vol% within 294 ± 4 μm 1.6% barium alginate microparticles by an electrostatic-mediated dropwise extrusion system. Pancreatic islets extracted from Sprague Dawley rats were encapsulated within the microparticles, and analyzed over a 21-day preliminary in vitro study. Acridine orange and propidium iodide fluorescent viability staining and light microscopy indicated a significant increase in viability for the fiber-laden particles relative to fiber-free control particles at days 7, 14, and 21. The fiber-laden system also reduced the incidence of disrupted islet cohesion from 31% to 8% at day 21, and showed evidence of islet-fiber adhesion. Preliminary investigations into insulin secretion and metabolic activity showed no significant difference between test and control groups. Further investigation into benefits of islet encapsulation within an extracellular matrix fiber network will be the subject of future studies with this body of work serving as a foundation. The system developed in this investigation could be developed into a modular scaffold system for tissue engineering beyond the field of islet research.