Human pseudoislets could improve islet cell transplantation in type 1 diabetes

A new method of reorganising human beta cells could improve the effectiveness of islet transplantation in type 1 diabetes.
Scientists from the University of Calgary in Canada have bioengineered human “pseudoislets” which have demonstrated success in mice trials.
These pseudoislets are engineered to have greater likelihood of survival following transplantatio, and researchers are keen to launch clinical trials to test the islets in humans.
One of the problems with islet cell transplantation is that islets have to compete for limited oxygen and nutrients. This can eventually lead to islet cells dying out.
To address this problem, Calgary researchers Dr Mark Ungri, PhD, and Yang Yu used tissue engineering technology called AggreWell to assemble islet cells into clusters with controlled size and composition.
The method deviates from the Edmonton Protocol, a process which has helped hundreds of people with type 1 diabetes become less dependent on insulin, but focuses more on establishing the cells’ survival.
Dr Ungrin worked with Edmonton Protocol pioneers Drs James Shapiro and Greg Korbutt on the technology. In laboratory experiments, the reorganised cells helped each other survive and function without competing for oxygen and nutrients.
“Our engineered pseudoislets perform very well in the lab, and in mice,” said Dr Ungrin. “Over the next few years we plan to establish the scale-up and quality control necessary to bring the approach to the clinic.
“In this paper we focused on donated human islet material since that’s what’s most commonly used in patients at present. However, the approach has been designed so when stem cell-derived pancreatic cells become available and receive approval, we can substitute them to alleviate the shortage of organ donors.”
The findings appear online in the journal Diabetologia.

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