Embryonic pig pancreatic tissue for the treatment of diabetes in a nonhuman primate model

Gil Hecht, Smadar Eventov-Friedman, Chava Rosen, Elias Shezen, Dalit Tchorsh, Anna Aronovich, Enrique Freud, Hana Golan, Ronit El-Hasid, Helena Katchman, Bernhard J. Hering, Amnon Zung, Zipi Kra-Oz, Pninit Shaked-Mishan, Alex Yusim, Alex Shtabsky, Pavel Idelevitch, Ana Tobar, Alon Harmelin, Esther Bachar-LustigYair Reisner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Xenotransplantation of pig tissues has great potential to overcome the shortage of organ donors. One approach to address the vigorous immune rejection associated with xenotransplants is the use of embryonic precursor tissue, which induces and utilizes host vasculature upon its growth and development. Recently, we showed in mice that embryonic pig pancreatic tissue from embryonic day 42 (E42) exhibits optimal properties as a β cell replacement therapy. We now demonstrate the proof of concept in 2 diabetic Cynomolgus monkeys, followed for 393 and 280 days, respectively. A marked reduction of exogenous insulin requirement was noted by the fourth month after transplantation, reaching complete independence from exogenous insulin during the fifth month after transplantation, with full physiological control of blood glucose levels. The porcine origin of insulin was documented by a radioimmunoassay specific for porcine C-peptide. Furthermore, the growing tissue was found to be predominantly vascularized with host blood vessels, thereby evading hyperacute or acute rejection, which could potentially be mediated by preexisting anti-pig antibodies. Durable graft protection was achieved, and most of the late complications could be attributed to the immunosuppressive protocol. While fine tuning of immune suppression, tissue dose, and implantation techniques are still required, our results demonstrate that porcine E-42 embryonic pancreatic tissue can normalize blood glucose levels in primates. Its long-term proliferative capacity, its revascularization by host endothelium, and its reduced immunogenicity, strongly suggest that this approach could offer an attractive replacement therapy for diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8659-8664
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - 26 May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Immune-suppression
  • Rejection
  • Xeno-transplantation


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