Tissue-Engineered Human Pancreatic Cells Successfully Treat Diabetic Mice


Source: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Summary: Researchers tissue-engineered human pancreatic islets in a laboratory that develop a circulatory system, secrete hormones like insulin and successfully treat sudden-onset type 1 diabetes in transplanted mice.


Human pancreatic islets already can be transplanted into diabetic patients for treatment. Unfortunately, the engraftment success rate is relatively low because the tissues lose their vascularization and blood supply as islets are being processed before transplant. This makes it difficult to get the maximum health benefit for patients getting these procedures. And although stem cell-based tissue engineering has tremendous therapeutic potential, its future clinical use still faces the critical challenge of ensuring a blood supply to nourish the transplanted tissues. Researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the U.S. and Yokohama City University (YCU) in Japan used a new bioengineering process they developed called a self-condensation cell culture. The technology helps nudge medical science closer to one day growing human organ tissues from a person’s own cells for regenerative therapy. The study was published in the journal Cell Reports.

Pancreatic islets

Vascularized pancreatic islets (areas in green) bioengineered by researchers and transplanted into a mouse. The bioengineered islets — which have a network of blood vessels (shown in red) and secrete hormones like insulin are shown seven days after transplant.  Credit: Cincinnati Children’s

Scientists tested their processing system with donated human organ cells (pancreas, heart, brain, etc.), with mouse organ cells and with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). Reprogrammed from a person’s adult cells (like skin cells), iPS cells act like embryonic cells and can form any tissue type in the body. The tissue-engineering process also uses two types of embryonic-stage progenitor cells, which support formation of the body and its specific organs. The progenitor cells are mesenchymal stem cells (MSNs) and human umbilical vascular endothelial cells (HUVECs). After the tissue-engineered islets were transplanted into humanized mouse models of severe type 1 diabetes, they resolved the animals’ disease.

Physician-scientist, Takanori Takebe said, “This method may serve as a principal curative strategy for treating type 1 diabetes, of which there are 79,000 new diagnoses per year”, “This is a life-threatening disease that never goes away, so developing effective and possibly permanent therapeutic approaches would help millions of children and adults around the world.”


More Information: Yoshinobu Takahashi et al, “Self-Condensation Culture Enables Vascularization of Tissue Fragments for Efficient Therapeutic Transplantation”, Cell Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.03.123 


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