Pancreatic-islet transplantation is a safe and noninvasive therapy for type 1 diabetes. However, the currently applied site for transplantation, ie, the liver, is not the optimal site for islet survival. Because the human body has shortcomings in providing an optimal site, artificial transplantation sites have been proposed. Such an artificial site could consist of a polymeric scaffold that mimics the pancreatic microenvironment and supports islet function. Recently, remarkable progress has been made in the technology of engineering scaffolds. The polymer-islet interactions, the site of implantation, and scaffold prevascularization are critical factors for success or failure of the scaffolds. This article critically reviews these factors while also discussing translation of experimental studies to human application as well as the steps required to create a clinically applicable prevascularized, retrievable scaffold for implantation of insulin-producing cells for treatment of type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Important advances have been made in the design and testing of polymeric scaffolds for pancreatic islet transplantation, but some challenges remain to be solved before human application.