Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Transplant Team

Placenta-derived cells boost the efficiency of islet transplants for treating type I diabetes

09 February 2020

Transplant Team

To regulate blood glucose levels, our bodies need hormones produced by cells in the islets of Langerhans, in the pancreas: insulin, which reduces blood glucose, and glucagon, which has the opposite effect. In patients with type 1 diabetes, regulation fails because their immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells. Transplants of healthy islets, with functioning beta cells, can be the only solution for severely-affected patients, but this procedure is difficult, often requiring multiple donors before successful implantation. Working to improve the process, researchers added amniotic epithelial cells (AECs), extracted from the placenta, to islet cells, before transplanting the resulting clusters into diabetic mice. Compared to regular islets (pictured, left, with beta cells in blue, glucagon-producing alpha cells in red), these 'super-islets' (right, with AECs in green) integrated more successfully, and thus brought the mice’s blood glucose levels down faster, suggesting that using AECs in transplants could improve prospects for patients.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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