Study will try to create pancreatic islets from stem cells :-)

I think this direction of research is pretty exciting! These researchers at U Pittsburg are working on the ability to create pancreatic islets (also called islets of Langerhans, i.e. Beta cells) from stem cells:

The reason why it is really exciting to me is that this would eventually allow for autologous transplants from cells coming from the patient’s body, which means there would be no need to take immuno-suppressants for the rest of your life!

The paper mentions vascularization as an issue. It appears that such engineered islets, when they are not cadaver transplants, have a gigantic need for vascularization without which most Beta cells would die:

If this ever pans out, it would be a pretty good reason in my eyes for automatically banking embryonic stem cells at birth.

At this stage I am only excited because of the direction of research. These researchers are nowhere yet, and their existing projects are only in vitro. But this is a direction that would lead to the real cure.


So not to be a Debbie Downer, but my impression is that the challenge with patient-derived stem cell transplants is that they can’t be mass produced, and so the main reason places like ViaCyte start with, say, the standard HESC line is because they can eventually get a system that is produced at scale and be cheaper and easier to produce. So while an autologous transplant might be better (I mean, it most certainly should be better than HESCs grown on a mouse cell line culture, right?), my sense is it will not become the commercial norm until someone figures out how to create these cells at scale for each person in a cheap way.


I would do the same thing if I were researching this project now. But if the project panned out (e.g. from cadavers to stem-cell-grown), the next step would likely be autologous!

I am still very excited, because this is only one of two projects I know of working in this direction :slight_smile: