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Transplantation. 2009 Apr 15;87(7):983-91. doi: 10.1097/TP.0b013e31819c86ea.

Human beta-cell precursors mature into functional insulin-producing cells in an immunoisolation device: implications for diabetes cell therapies.

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  • 1Development and Aging Program, Burnham Institute for Medical Research, La Jolla, CA, USA.



Islet transplantation is limited by the need for chronic immunosuppression and the paucity of donor tissue. As new sources of human beta-cells are developed (e.g., stem cell-derived tissue), transplanting them in a durable device could obviate the need for immunosuppression, while also protecting the patient from any risk of tumorigenicity. Here, we studied (1) the survival and function of encapsulated human beta-cells and their progenitors and (2) the engraftment of encapsulated murine beta-cells in allo- and autoimmune settings.


Human islets and human fetal pancreatic islet-like cell clusters were encapsulated in polytetrafluorethylene devices (TheraCyte) and transplanted into immunodeficient mice. Graft survival and function was measured by immunohistochemistry, circulating human C-peptide levels, and blood glucose levels. Bioluminescent imaging was used to monitor encapsulated neonatal murine islets.


Encapsulated human islet-like cell clusters survived, replicated, and acquired a level of glucose responsive insulin secretion sufficient to ameliorate hyperglycemia in diabetic mice. Bioluminescent imaging of encapsulated murine neonatal islets revealed a dynamic process of cell death followed by regrowth, resulting in robust long-term allograft survival. Further, in the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse model of type I diabetes, encapsulated primary beta-cells ameliorated diabetes without stimulating a detectable T-cell response.


We demonstrate for the first time that human beta-cells function is compatible with encapsulation in a durable, immunoprotective device. Moreover, our study suggests that encapsulation of beta-cells before terminal differentiation will be a successful approach for new cell-based therapies for diabetes, such as those derived from stem cells.

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