Beta Cell Expansion and Replacement

Renowned for our work in beta cell production and research, we are conducting studies to expand and boost insulin-producing cells and make them less susceptible to attack by the immune system.
Our beta cell replacement platform is unique among our peers, and we are continually creating improved methods of boosting and replacing beta cells, as well as imaging them in the body to encourage long-term survival.
Healthy beta cells produce and release insulin in response to glucose in the blood, and they are vital to treating and preventing diabetes. We now understand that some patients retain a store of “sleeping” beta cells, and our researchers are exploring ways to awaken these cells so that patients are able to produce insulin and achieve normal blood sugar levels.
We have developed a novel form of the naturally occurring growth factor gastrin, which in preclinical studies demonstrated its ability to significantly improve the survival of beta cells.
In particularly promising research, our experts are studying a series of beta cell proteins that are found at abnormally low levels in patients with diabetes. Lab research has shown that adding more of these proteins to beta cells improves their function, longevity and resistance to immune attack, and that adding “too many” proteins doesn’t hurt the cells. This implies that translating this approach to a therapy would be safe for patients.
We are also a national leader in developing islet cells for transplantation to treat patients with diabetes, with recognition on a national level as the coordinating center of the Integrated Islet Distribution Program.
As of 2015, this program has supported 341 studies that address multiple areas of diabetes research relating to islet cells. We are also the coordinating center of the Human Islet Research Network, a role in which we facilitate significant scientific advances in type 1 diabetes.
We are focused on addressing a major barrier to making islet cell transplant and other immune-modulating therapies more lasting and widely available to patients — namely, the shortage of islet cells that can be collected from human pancreatic tissue.
To create a lasting source of insulin-producing beta cells for transplant, we are developing new methods to promote differentiation from pancreatic stem cells into healthy islets. These methods will allow us to further increase the number of cells available for transplant, leading to lifesaving research.
This research builds on our strengths in biologics, using stem cells as well as genetic engineering. The approach is especially promising because stem cells are a renewable source of beta cells, meaning patients can generate many more islet cells from one pancreas than could be gathered by extracting only the mature islet cells.
Our team of researchers at City of Hope is the first in the world to apply imaging techniques to cell-based transplantation. Our efforts to monitor beta cells after transplant and identify signs of early demise in both native and transplanted cells will make it possible to stop cell injury, significantly advancing prevention efforts and strengthening transplant techniques.