Generation of fully mature, functional islet-like organoids from human pluripotent stem cells in vitro
Insulin is a hormone that is crucial for maintaining normal blood sugar levels and is produced by beta-cells in the pancreas. If the amount of beta-cells is insufficient, or beta-cells stop making insulin, blood sugar levels start to rise which can lead to diabetes. Islet transplantation can supply the necessary amount of beta-cells and achieve superior glucose control over exogenous insulin injection, but is extremely limited by its reliance on organ donations. As a result, only a small fraction of people afflicted with diabetes currently benefit from these cell replacement therapies.
Our project aims to direct pluripotent stem cells to develop into fully mature, functional human islets in vitro. The stem cell-derived islets have similar size, endocrine cell composition and functionality as primary human islets and can provide an unlimited source of islet donors, permitting widespread application of islet-cell replacement therapy to treat diabetes. Moreover, stem cell-derived islets can also be suitable models for drug screening, regenerative medicine development and understanding the pathogenesis of diabetes.