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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Nov;299(5):E713-20. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00279.2010. Epub 2010 Jun 29.

Inconsistent formation and nonfunction of insulin-positive cells from pancreatic endoderm derived from human embryonic stem cells in athymic nude rats.

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Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center, University of California Los Angeles, 90095-7073, USA.


Embryonic stem cell therapy has been proposed as a therapeutic strategy to restore β-cell mass and function in T1DM. Recently, a group from Novocell (now ViaCyte) reported successful development of glucose-responsive islet-like structures after implantation of pancreatic endoderm (PE) derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESC) into immune-deficient mice. Our objective was to determine whether implantation of hESC-derived pancreatic endoderm from Novocell into athymic nude rats results in development of viable glucose-responsive pancreatic endocrine tissue. Athymic nude rats were implanted with PE derived from hESC either via implantation into the epididymal fat pads or by subcutaneous implantation into TheraCyte encapsulation devices for 20 wk. Blood glucose, weight, and human insulin/C-peptide secretion were monitored by weekly blood draws. Graft β-cell function was assessed by a glucose tolerance test, and graft morphology was assessed by immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. At 20 wk postimplantation, epididymal fat-implanted PE progressed to develop islet-like structures in 50% of implants, with a mean β-cell fractional area of 0.8 ± 0.3%. Human C-peptide and insulin were detectable, but at very low levels (C-peptide = 50 ± 26 pmol/l and insulin = 15 ± 7 pmol/l); however, there was no increase in human C-peptide/insulin levels after glucose challenge. There was no development of viable pancreatic tissue or meaningful secretory function when human PE was implanted in the TheraCyte encapsulation devices. These data confirm that islet-like structures develop from hESC differentiated to PE by the protocol developed by NovoCell. However, the extent of endocrine cell formation and secretory function is not yet sufficient to be clinically relevant.

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