• Islet assessment;
  • islet transplantation;
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
  • monitoring

There is a crucial need for noninvasive assessment tools after cell transplantation. This study investigates whether a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) strategy could be clinically applied to islet transplantation. The purest fractions of seven human islet preparations were labeled with superparamagnetic iron oxide particles (SPIO, 280 μg/mL) and transplanted into four patients with type 1 diabetes. MRI studies (T2*) were performed prior to and at various time points after transplantation. Viability and in vitro and in vivo functions of labeled islets were similar to those of control islets. All patients could stop insulin after transplantation. The first patient had diffuse hypointense images on her baseline liver MRI, typical for spontaneous high iron content, and transplant-related modifications could not be observed. The other three patients had normal intensity on pretransplant images, and iron-loaded islets could be identified after transplantation as hypointense spots within the liver. In one of them, i.v. iron therapy prevented subsequent visualization of the spots because of diffuse hypointense liver background. Altogether, this study demonstrates the feasibility and safety of MRI-based islet graft monitoring in clinical practice. Iron overload (spontaneous or induced) represents the major obstacle to the technique.