PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Porcine islets are a major focus of current research in nonhuman primate xenotransplantation models. Major advances have been obtained recently and these are briefly described.
RECENT FINDINGS: Reports by three independent centres have described 6-month porcine islet xenograft survival in nonhuman primates. Two of these have obtained such results by interfering with the CD40/CD154 co-stimulatory pathway. While these results are groundbreaking, the immunosuppressive regimens used are not viewed as clinically applicable and will need to be modified before islet xenotransplantation can be considered for clinical trials. In contrast, preliminary results by Gianello and colleagues have demonstrated 6-month survival of diabetic nonhuman primates transplanted subcutaneously with encapsulated porcine islets, in the complete absence of immunosuppression. The confirmation and full assessment of these results are eagerly awaited. Importantly, to date, no evidence of xenozoonoses has been observed following porcine islet xenotransplantation to nonhuman primates.
SUMMARY: Of the possible organ candidates for xenotransplantation, porcine islets are the closest to a possible clinical application. Prior to the initiation of ethical and safe clinical trials, however, further efforts to generate additional efficacy and safety data in the nonhuman primate model will be indispensable.