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Transplant Res. 2012 Oct 18;1(1):19. doi: 10.1186/2047-1440-1-19.

PDX1-engineered embryonic stem cell-derived insulin producing cells regulate hyperglycemia in diabetic mice.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Immunology, Roy J, and Lucille A, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa and Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Building 41, Room #128, 601 Highway 6W, Iowa City, IA 52246, USA.



Type 1 diabetes can be treated by the transplantation of cadaveric whole pancreata or isolated pancreatic islets. However, this form of treatment is hampered by the chronic shortage of cadaveric donors. Embryonic stem (ES) cell-derived insulin producing cells (IPCs) offer a potentially novel source of unlimited cells for transplantation to treat type 1 and possibly type 2 diabetes. However, thus far, the lack of a reliable protocol for efficient differentiation of ES cells into IPCs has hindered the clinical exploitation of these cells.


To efficiently generate IPCs using ES cells, we have developed a double transgenic ES cell line R1Pdx1AcGFP/RIP-Luc that constitutively expresses pancreatic β-cell-specific transcription factor pancreatic and duodenal homeobox gene 1 (Pdx1) as well as rat insulin promoter (RIP) driven luciferase reporter. We have established several protocols for the reproducible differentiation of ES cells into IPCs. The differentiation of ES cells into IPCs was monitored by immunostaining as well as real-time quantitative RT-PCR for pancreatic β-cell-specific markers. Pancreatic β-cell specific RIP became transcriptionally active following the differentiation of ES cells into IPCs and induced the expression of the luciferase reporter. Glucose stimulated insulin secretion by the ES cell-derived IPCs was measured by ELISA. Further, we have investigated the therapeutic efficacy of ES cell-derived IPCs to correct hyperglycemia in syngeneic streptozotocin (STZ)-treated diabetic mice. The long term fate of the transplanted IPCs co-expressing luciferase in syngeneic STZ-induced diabetic mice was monitored by real time noninvasive in vivo bioluminescence imaging (BLI).


We have recently demonstrated that spontaneous in vivo differentiation of R1Pdx1AcGFP/RIP-Luc ES cell-derived pancreatic endoderm-like cells (PELCs) into IPCs corrects hyperglycemia in diabetic mice. Here, we investigated whether R1Pdx1AcGFP/RIP-Luc ES cells can be efficiently differentiated in vitro into IPCs. Our new data suggest that R1Pdx1AcGFP/RIP-Luc ES cells efficiently differentiate into glucose responsive IPCs. The ES cell differentiation led to pancreatic lineage commitment and expression of pancreatic β cell-specific genes, including Pax4, Pax6, Ngn3, Isl1, insulin 1, insulin 2 and PC2/3. Transplantation of the IPCs under the kidney capsule led to sustained long-term correction of hyperglycemia in diabetic mice. Although these newly generated IPCs effectively rescued hyperglycemic mice, an unexpected result was teratoma formation in 1 out of 12 mice. We attribute the development of the teratoma to the presence of either non-differentiated or partially differentiated stem cells.


Our data show the potential of Pdx1-engineered ES cells to enhance pancreatic lineage commitment and to robustly drive the differentiation of ES cells into glucose responsive IPCs. However, there is an unmet need for eliminating the partially differentiated stem cells.

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