The ability of rat pancreatic islets to revascularize after transplantation was examined via in vitro and in vivo imaging of the microvasculature using laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM).
Cultured or cryoprocessed islets were transplanted at the renal subcapsular site in rats. At various time intervals after transplantation, three-dimensional imaging of the graft was performed by LSCM. In vitro studies were conducted via microvascular corrosion casting of the grafted kidney in situations where it was difficult to obtain in vivo confocal data due to surgical complications. The vascular morphology of the islet grafts was evaluated quantitatively via digital image analysis algorithms to determine the morphology of the neovascular ingrowth and the rate of revascularization.
In cultured islet grafts, the initiation of angiogenesis was observed within 1 week, characterized by the presence of capillary sprouts, tortuous vessels, and blood vessels with blind ends. The revascularization of the graft was typically completed within 2 weeks and could be distinguished as a network of completely perfused blood vessels consisting of intertwining capillaries, with surrounding arterioles and venules. The angiogenesis process in cryopreserved islet grafts required a longer time period to initiate (approximately 2 weeks), and the revascularization was completed in 1 week after the initiation.
These results successfully demonstrate the potential of the described in vivo and in vitro LSCM techniques to measure the angiogenesis process in pancreatic islet grafts.