Collagen and Endothelial Cell Coculture Improves v-Cell Functionality and Rescues Pancreatic Extracellular Matrix
The use of biomaterials and biomaterial functionalization is a promising approach to support pancreatic islet viability posttransplantation in an effort to reduce insulin dependence for patients afflicted with diabetes mellitus type 1. Extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins are known to impact numerous reparative functions in the body. Assessing how endogenously expressed pancreatic ECM proteins are affected by posttransplant-like hypoxic conditions may provide significant insights toward the development of tissue-engineered therapeutic strategies to positively influence v-cell survival, proliferation, and functionality. Here, we investigated the expression of three relevant groups of pancreatic ECM proteins in human native tissue, including basement membrane (BM) proteins (collagen type 4 [COL4], laminins [LAM]), proteoglycans (decorin [DCN], nidogen-1 [NID1]), and fibril-forming proteins (fibronectin [FN], collagen type 1 [COL1]). In an in vitro hypoxia model, we identified that ECM proteins were differently affected by hypoxic conditions, contributing to an overall loss of v-cell functionality. The use of a COL1 hydrogel as carrier material demonstrated a protective effect on v-cells mitigating the effect of hypoxia on proteoglycans as well as fibril-forming protein expression, supporting v-cell functionality in hypoxia. We further showed that providing endothelial cells (ECs) into the COL1 hydrogel improves v-cell response as well as the expression of relevant BM proteins. Our data show that v-cells benefit from a microenvironment composed of structure-providing COL1 with the incorporation of ECs to withstand the harsh conditions of hypoxia. Such hydrogels support v-cell survival and can serve as an initial source of ECM proteins to allow cell engraftment while preserving cell functionality posttransplantation.