According to Professor Liddle, this study used stem cells derived from human umbilical vein and human fat that were re-programmed to generate human islet-like organoids (HILOs).
Pancreatic islets are regions in the pancreas responsible for the production of hormones and insulin.
Pancreatic islets contain multiple cell types, not just insulin-producing beta cells. The research team created three-dimensional HILOs that not only include beta-like cells (the cells that produce, store and release insulin in the islets of the pancreas), but also other supporting cell types found in normal islets, said Professor Liddle.
Under the microscope, and using gene sequencing analysis, we are able to show that the three-dimensional HILOs are very similar to human islets. When the HILOs are transplanted into diabetic mice, they secrete insulin when blood glucose levels are high, just as normal islets would.
While human pancreatic islet transplantation has been a major advancement in treating severe cases of type 1 diabetes, the availability, quality and limited cellular longevity of this approach limits its application.
Pancreatic islet transplantation currently involves implanting insulin-producing islet cells from a deceased human donor into the liver of a person with type 1 diabetes. When successful, the procedure can control blood glucose levels, reduce the frequency and severity of hypoglycaemic episodes and potentially eliminate the need for regular insulin injections. A number of transplants are usually needed, and immunosuppressant drugs to prevent the immune system from attacking the transplanted cells are also required.
While the procedure is now funded by the Australian Government, pancreatic islet transplantation is currently limited to people with severely unstable type 1 diabetes, particularly those for whom insulin therapy alone is not effective and who experience recurrent and severe hypoglycaemic episodes.
Professor Philip OConnell is Executive Director at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research and pioneered pancreatic islet transplantation in Australia. Almost 20-years ago, he led Australias first pancreatic islet transplantation trials at Westmead Hospital and The Westmead Institute for Medical Research. Today, he continues his research, aiming to improve this procedure and develop islet transplantation as a mainstream treatment for type 1 diabetes.
Professor OConnell, who was not involved in this research study, said, Pancreatic islet transplantation has saved hundreds of lives around the globe however, it has its limitations. For example, pancreatic islets are taken from deceased donors, and the wait for donor islets can be lengthy. Once donor islets are obtained, not all are suitable for transplantation.
This research indicates the potential to alleviate some of these issues. Stem cells derived from readily available human tissues can be expanded then re-programmed into potentially unlimited numbers of islets that are suitable for transplantation.
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From stem cells to islets hope for treatment of type 1 diabetes – News – The University of Sydney