A National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center

Make an appointment: 800-826-HOPE

Ku, Hsun Teresa, Ph.D. Research

Hsun Teresa Ku, Ph.D. Research
Identification and Characterization of Pancreatic Stem Cells
A functional pancreas consists of two types of tissue: exocrine and endocrine. The exocrine tissue mainly consists of acinar cells, which secrete bicarbonate and digestive enzymes. These secretions are collected by the pancreatic ductal system, which begins with centroacinar cells that are directly in contact with acinar cells. The prolongation of the terminal ducts, or alveoli, are lined by centroacinar cells and gradually merge into a main duct that drains into the duodenum. The endocrine tissue is organized as islets and contains cells that secrete glucagon, insulin, somatostatin, pancreatic polypeptide or grehlin. These endocrine hormones are released directly into the blood stream in response to metabolic signals.
Recently, there has been an intense interest in identifying pancreatic stem or progenitor cells, especially the endocrine progenitor cells, for the purpose of replacement therapy of Type 1 diabetes (T1D), a disease in which the insulin-secreting beta cells are specifically destroyed by autoimmunity. However, the existence of self-renewing multipotential stem cells in the pancreas remains elusive. Our laboratory is interested in the identification and characterization of pancreatic stem/progenitor cells, using both mouse models and cadaverous human pancreatic tissues for studies. We have established a quantitative and clonogenic progenitor cell assay in our laboratory, which will be a powerful tool to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern the differentiation and proliferation of the pancreatic stem/progenitor cells at the single cell level.
Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy for Type 1 Diabetes
T1D is marked by a deficiency of the insulin-secreting β cells residing in the Islets of Langerhans within the pancreas due to autoimmune destruction. One of the long-term goals of our laboratory is to advance clinical cell-replacement therapy for patients with sever forms of T1D by developing a safe, reliable and abundant source of cells, derived from human stem cells that function like pancreatic islets. Toward this end, we have established an efficient and potentially cost-effective differentiation protocol, originally adapted from a mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation method previously established in our laboratory, and generated a population of glucose-responsive, insulin-producing and secreting cells derived from human ESCs while in vitro. This cell population will be a suitable development candidate for clinical cell replacement therapy for T1D at City of Hope in the future.
Embryonic Stem Cells as a Cellular Tool for Screening of Molecules for Treatment of Diabetes
In the small molecule drug discovery field, the “bottom-up” approach, which is based on structural considerations of known targets, has not been as fruitful as was once promised. ESC technology ffers a potential solution to this bottleneck. ESCs can be grown in large numbers and maintained in a pluripotent state in vitro. They can also be induced in culture to differentiate into cells from all three germ layers in a relatively normal fashion that is faithful to development in vivo. Three properties make ES cells an ideal platform for drug discovery: first, ES cells can provide virtually inexhaustible quantities of target cells, which is necessary for screening of large numbers of compounds; second, ES cells can differentiate into mature cells with phenotypes that mimic their counterparts in vivo; and third, compared with immortalized cell lines, ES cells and their derivatives will provide a much more accurate platform for the “top-down” drug screening approach. Our laboratory is interested in high throughput screening (HTS) of small molecules that may affect proliferation, differentiation and/or maturation of the pancreatic insulin-producing  β cells and their immediate progenitors. We have established a relatively simple and inexpensive differentiation protocol that allows efficient generation of the pancreatic like, insulin-expressing cells from murine ESCs. Thus, this ESC to pancreatic lineage differentiation assay will be valuable to serve as a cellular tool for screening large number of molecules that could be used to treat diabetes.

Lab Members

H. Teresa Ku, Ph.D.
626-256-HOPE (4673), ext. 61174
Jeanne LeBon, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
626-256-HOPE (4673), ext. 63796
Dan Gao, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
626-256-HOPE (4673), ext. 62251
Liang Jin, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
626-256-HOPE (4673), ext. 61449
Lena Wedeken, Ph.D.,
Postdoctoral Fellow and a CIRM Postdoctoral Scholar
626-256-HOPE (4673), ext. 33242
Stephanie Walker, B.S.
Research Associate I
626-256-HOPE (4673), ext. 31235
Nadiah Ghazalli, M.S.
Graduate Student and a CIRM Predoctoral Scholar
626-256-HOPE (4673), ext. 31235
Center for Biomedicine & Genetics
Our Center for Biomedicine & Genetics (CBG) manufactures promising new genetic and cellular agents created by researches for use inclinical trials. We are uniquely equipped to evaluate therapies swiftly and move lifesaving drugs into the marketplace with great speed.
City of Hope has been the home of many illustrious scientists, including six members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences: Ernest Beutler, Alfred Knudson, Rachmiel Levine, Susumo Ohno, Eugene Roberts, and Arthur Riggs. Learn more about our current scientists and researchers.
Cytogenetics Office Location
City of Hope and Beckman Research Institute 1500 East Duarte Road Duarte, CA 91010-3000 Northwest Building
Room 2265

Phone: 626-256-HOPE (4673), ext. 62025
Fax: 626-301-8877

Biostatistics Office Location
City of Hope and Beckman Research Institute
1500 East Duarte Road
Duarte, CA  91010-3000

Information Sciences Building (#171)

Phone:  626-256-HOPE (4673), Ext. 61444
Fax:  626-471-7106
or 626-301-8802
Develop new therapies, diagnostics and preventions in the fight against cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Support Our Research
By giving to City of Hope, you support breakthrough discoveries in laboratory research that translate into lifesaving treatments for patients with cancer and other serious diseases.
  • The burgeoning type 2 diabetes epidemic casts a pall over the health of America’s public. New research now shows the looming threat is getting worse. Much worse. A diabetes trends study published earlier this mongh in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology by researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Contro...
  • An aspirin a day might help keep breast cancer away for some breast cancer survivors, a new study suggests. Obese women who have had breast cancer could cut their risk of a recurrence in half if they regularly take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, report researchers from the...
  • Christine Crews isn’t only a fitness enthusiast, she’s also a personal trainer and fitness instructor. Being active defines her life. So when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer at age 30, she decided she absolutely couldn’t let the disease interfere with that lifestyle. And it didn’t. For t...
  • Cancer treatment and the cancer itself can cause changes in your sense of taste or smell. These side effects typically subside after treatment ends, but there are ways to help alleviate those bitter and metallic tastes in your mouth. Here are tips from the National Cancer Institute to help keeps tastes and food...
  • Immunotherapy — using one’s immune system to treat a disease — has been long lauded as the “magic bullet” of cancer treatments, one that can be more effective than the conventional therapies of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. One specific type of immunotherapy, called adoptive T cell thera...
  • Today, when cancer spreads from its original site to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis, patients face an uphill battle. Treatments are poorly effective, and cures are nearly impossible. Further, incidence rates for these types of cancers are increasing – particularly for cancers that have s...
  • Thanks to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), high school students across the state gained valuable hands-on experience with stem cell research this summer. City of Hope hosted eight of those students. As part of the CIRM Creativity Awards program, the young scholars worked full time as m...
  • Radiation therapy can help cure many children facing Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers. When the radiation is delivered to a girl’s chest, however, it can lead to a marked increase in breast cancer risk later in life. A recent multi-institutional study that included City of Hope’s Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H., t...
  • A patient diagnosed with cancer – especially a rare, advanced or hard-to-treat cancer – needs specialized care from exceptionally skilled and highly trained experts. That kind of care saves lives, improves quality of life and keeps families whole. That kind of care is best found at comprehensive cancer centers ...
  • Appetite loss may be common during cancer treatment, lasting throughout your therapy or only occasionally, but it can be managed. Below are tips from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that can help you keep your weight up and, in doing so, keep your body well-nourished. (See the end of this article for a deli...
  • Myelodysplasia, sometimes referred to as myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, is a rare group of blood disorders caused by disrupted development of blood cells within the bone marrow, resulting in a decreased number of healthy blood cells. People diagnosed with the condition, considered a precancer, may be at great...
  • Twenty years ago, scientists discovered that a mutation in a gene now widely known as BRCA1 was linked to a sharply increased risk of breast cancer, paving the way for a new chapter in identifying women at risk of the disease and giving them options to potentially avoid an aggressive cancer. But experts have al...
  • The Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy at City of Hope turned 54 this year. Marking the occasion, the academy announced a new scholarship in honor of longtime director Paul Salvaterra, Ph.D. Salvaterra, a professor in City of Hope’s Department of Neurosciences, has led the summer student acade...
  • Stevee Rowe has a very personal connection to the research she’s conducting on neural stem cells: Her late father participated in a City of Hope clinical trial involving neural stem cells. Rowe — her full name is Alissa Stevee Rowe, but she prefers to use her middle name — will enter her senior year at the [...
  • Although multiple myeloma is classified as a blood cancer, patients with this disease often experience bone-related symptoms, too. This includes bone pain, frequent fractures and spots of low bone density or bone damage that show up during a skeletal scan. Here, Amrita Krishnan, M.D., director of City of Hope&#...