Diabetes Stem Cell Research

The paradigm of diabetes treatment has not meaningfully changed since the discovery of insulin. NYSCF Research Institute scientists make induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from the skin samples of patients with diabetes. These stem cells can then be differentiated into insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells that provide a living window into diabetes: they mature, get sick, and die in the same way that they do in the patient from whom they are made. Through research using these cells, scientists can, for the first time, scrutinize what goes wrong on a cellular level that leads to the disease.

NYSCF scientists conduct diabetes research using all types of stem cells – iPS cells, embryonic stem cells, and stem cells created through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) – as it remains to be seen which type will yield the best cells for therapies.

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Immunoengineering

In addition to studying the general properties of beta cells affected in diabetes, the NYSCF diabetes team also studies why beta cells are attacked by the body’s own immune system in type 1 diabetes. Any successful treatment for type 1 diabetes will need to address not only beta cell replacement, but also the autoimmune attack that leads to the need for replacement in the first place.

NYSCF scientists are exploring another approach by using genetic engineering to find ways to modify beta cells created from stem cells so that they are impervious to immune attack.