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Keywords:

  • Angiogenesis;
  • lymphatic vessels;
  • pancreatic islets;
  • transplantation

Transplantation of pancreatic islets necessitates an engraftment process, including revascularization of the graft. Studies of graft vasculature have demonstrated that islets become revascularized during the first post-transplant week through an angiogenic process. If this also involves lymphatic vessels is unknown. The aim of the present study was to functionally evaluate if lymphatic vessels, which are absent in endogenous islets, form after islet transplantation. To achieve this, inbred Wistar-Furth rats were transplanted with 250 syngeneic islets under the renal capsule. Intra-vital microscopy of the graft in combination with interstitial injection of Evans Blue was performed 1 week, 1 month or 9–12 months later. In all animals studied, there was drainage through intra-graft lymphatic capillaries emptying into larger lymphatic vessels associated with the renal capsule. The number was slightly lower 1 week post-transplantation. Most of the lymphatic capillaries were present in the graft stroma, rather than interspersed among the endocrine cells. In some animals, we were able to demonstrate dye in regional lymph nodes. We conclude that unlike endogenous islets, islet grafts develop a lymphatic drainage. Its functional importance and characteristics remain to be established. However, it can be speculated that immune reactions may be facilitated by the presence of lymphatic vessels.