Evidence in experimental models suggests that many autoimmune diseases can be prevented by transplantation of bone marrow from disease-resistant donors. For potential clinical application, it would be important to avoid the morbidity and mortality associated with lethal conditioning and achieve mixed chimerism using less than complete recipient ablation. We report here for the first time that stable chimerism achieved in NOD mice using a sublethal radiation-based conditioning approach is sufficient to prevent beta-cell destruction and abrogate insulitis in prediabetic NOD mice. The percentage of NOD mouse recipients (8 wk of age) that engrafted with donor bone marrow correlated with the dose of irradiation and number of bone marrow cells transplanted. Engraftment of B10.BR bone marrow occurred in > or = 94% of animals receiving > or = 750 cGy of total body irradiation before bone marrow transplantation and > or = 30 x 10(6) bone marrow cells, while reproducible engraftment did not occur at radiation doses of less than 700 cGy and cellular doses of less than 30 x 10(6) bone marrow cells. All chimeric animals remained free of diabetes (n = 38) for 10 mo following bone marrow transplantation. Moreover, in all animals examined, no insulitis was present from 12 to 36 wk following reconstitution. In striking contrast, 61% (22 of 36) of NOD recipients that were conditioned but did not receive bone marrow developed acute diabetes by 12 mo. Insulitis was present in all remaining animals. These results suggest that allogeneic chimerism achieved using a sublethal conditioning approach can prevent the onset of diabetes and even reverse preexisting insulitis in NOD mice.

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