Experimental evaluation and computational modeling of the effects of encapsulation on the time-profile of glucose-stimulated insulin release of pancreatic islets

Peter Buchwald, Sirlene R. Cechin, Jessica D. Weaver, Cherie L. Stabler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: In type 1 diabetic patients, who have lost their ability to produce insulin, transplantation of pancreatic islet cells can normalize metabolic control in a manner that is not achievable with exogenous insulin. To be successful, this procedure has to address the problems caused by the immune and autoimmune responses to the graft. Islet encapsulation using various techniques and materials has been and is being extensively explored as a possible approach. Within this framework, it is of considerable interest to characterize the effect encapsulation has on the insulin response of pancreatic islets. Methods: To improve our ability to quantitatively describe the glucose-stimulated insulin release (GSIR) of pancreatic islets in general and of micro-encapsulated islets in particular, we performed dynamic perifusion experiments with frequent sampling. We used unencapsulated and microencapsulated murine islets in parallel and fitted the results with a complex local concentration-based finite element method (FEM) computational model. Results: The high-resolution dynamic perifusion experiments allowed good characterization of the first-phase and second-phase insulin secretion, and we observed a slightly delayed and blunted first-phase insulin response for microencapsulated islets when compared to free islets. Insulin secretion profiles of both free and encapsulated islets could be fitted well by a COMSOL Multiphysics model that couples hormone secretion and nutrient consumption kinetics with diffusive and convective transport. This model, which was further validated and calibrated here, can be used for arbitrary geometries and glucose stimulation sequences and is well suited for the quantitative characterization of the insulin response of cultured, perifused, transplanted, or encapsulated islets. Conclusions: The present high-resolution GSIR experiments allowed for direct characterization of the effect microencapsulation has on the time-profile of insulin secretion. The multiphysics model, further validated here with the help of these experimental results, can be used to increase our understanding of the challenges that have to be faced in the design of bioartificial pancreas-type devices and to advance their further optimization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28
JournalBioMedical Engineering Online
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 28 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Alginate
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • FEM model
  • Glucose-stimulated insulin release
  • Hill equation
  • Islet encapsulation
  • Islet perifusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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