Developing an Unlimited Supply of Insulin-Producing Cells

One of the most critical challenges we face in our commitment to cure diabetes is to develop new sources of insulin-producing cells. Donor tissue is in short supply and, as a result, we must develop alternative sources of insulin-producing cells.

At the Diabetes Research Institute, we’re actively pursuing research in the following areas:

  • Stem Cells & Diabetes: Scientists are trying to develop stem cells into insulin-producing islet cells. If successful, that could provide an unlimited supply of islet cells.
  • Transdifferentiation: Researchers have determined that adult cells, which already perform a given function, have the potential to be reprogrammed to become another cell type and take on a new function, perhaps as insulin-producing cells.
  • Xenotransplantation: The use of insulin-producing cells obtained from animals, such as pigs, represents an attractive alternative source of islets for transplantation.
  • Cell Expansion (microRNA): DRI researchers are studying microRNA molecules that regulate key, biological processes in our bodies such as cell growth and the development of stem cells into functional, adult cells. We’ve identified a subset of these genes that is shown to play an early, crucial role in the development and function of insulin-producing islet cells.
  • Cell Regeneration: There is mounting evidence the body may be able to regenerate or “regrow” insulin-producing cells through a natural, self-repairing process – even among those with type 1 diabetes.
  • Optimizing Cell Function: DRI researchers have identified key molecules involved in insulin release. This finding will help assess beta cell function and may also play a significant role in maintaining long-term function no matter the source of the cells.


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