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Critical Reviews™ in Biomedical Engineering

ISSN Print: 0278-940X
ISSN Online: 1943-619X

Critical Reviews™ in Biomedical Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevBiomedEng.v39.i6.10
pages 473-491

Encapsulated Cell Grafts to Treat Cellular Deficiencies and Dysfunction

N.V. Krishnamurthy
Department of Radiology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire
Barjor Gimi
Department of Radiology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire; Department of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire


Cell transplantation provides a therapeutic alternative to whole organ transplantation in the management of diseases arising from the absence or failure of specialized cells. Though allogenic transplantation is favorable in terms of graft acceptance, xenotransplantation can provide a potentially unlimited source of cells and can overcome shortage of human donors. Effective immunoisolation of the xenografts is critical for their long term survival and function. Encapsulation of cells in polymeric matrices, organic or inorganic, provides a physical selectively permeable barrier between the host and the graft, thereby immunoisolating the graft. Microencapsulation of cells in alginate hydrogels has been pervasive, but this approach does not provide precise control over porosity, whereas micro- and nano-fabrication technologies can provide precise and reproducible control over porosity. We highlight both encapsulation approaches in this review, with their relative advantages and challenges. We also highlight the therapeutic potential of encapsulated cells for treating a variety of diseases, detailing the xenotransplantation of pancreatic islets in diabetes therapy as well as the grafting of engineered cells that facilitate localized enzyme-prodrug therapy of pancreatic cancer.