Human amniotic epithelial cells induce localized cell-mediated immune privilege in vitro: implications for pancreatic islet transplantation

Khalid M. Qureshi, Robert J. Oliver, Michelle B Paget, Hilary E Murray, Clifford J. Bailey, Richard Downing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic systemic immunosuppression in cell replacement therapy restricts its clinical application. This study sought to explore the potential of cell-based immune modulation as an alternative to immunosuppressive drug therapy in the context of pancreatic islet transplantation. Human amniotic epithelial cells (AEC) possess innate anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties that were utilized to create localized immune privilege in an in vitro islet cell culture system. Cellular constructs composed of human islets and AEC (islet/AEC) were bioengineered under defined rotational cell culture conditions. Insulin secretory capacity was validated by glucose challenge and immunomodulatory potential characterized using a peripheral blood lymphocyte (PBL) proliferation assay. Results were compared to control constructs composed of islets or AEC cultured alone. Studies employing AEC-conditioned medium examined the role of soluble factors, and fluorescence immunocytochemistry was used to identify putative mediators of the immunosuppressive response in isolated AEC monocultures. Sustained, physiologically appropriate insulin secretion was observed in both islets and islet/AEC constructs. Activation of resting PBL proliferation occurred on exposure to human islets alone but this response was significantly (p <0.05) attenuated by the presence of AEC and AEC-conditioned medium. Mitogen (phytohaemagglutinin, 5 µg/ml)-induced PBL proliferation was sustained on contact with isolated islets but abrogated by AEC, conditioned medium, and the islet/AEC constructs. Immunocytochemical analysis of AEC monocultures identified a subpopulation of cells that expressed the proapoptosis protein Fas ligand. This study demonstrates that human islet/AEC constructs exhibit localized immunosuppressive properties with no impairment of ß-cell function. The data suggest that transplanted islets may benefit from the immune privilege status conferred on them as a consequence of their close proximity to human AEC. Such an approach may reduce the need for chronic systemic immunosuppression, thus making islet transplantation a more attractive treatment option for the management of insulin-dependent diabetes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-534
Number of pages12
JournalCell Transplantation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • adult
  • amnion
  • epithelial cells
  • female
  • humans
  • cellular immunity
  • immunohistochemistry
  • insulin-secreting cells
  • islets of Langerhans
  • islets of Langerhans transplantation
  • lymphocyte activation
  • lymphocytes
  • male
  • middle aged


Dive into the research topics of 'Human amniotic epithelial cells induce localized cell-mediated immune privilege in vitro: implications for pancreatic islet transplantation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this