Background: Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is caused by auto immune destruction of insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. Currently available treatments include transplantation of isolated islets from donor pancreas to the patient. However, this method is limited by inadequate means of immuno-suppression to prevent islet rejection and importantly, limited supply of islets for transplantation. Autologous adult stem cells are now considered for cell replacement therapy in diabetes as it has the potential to generate neo-islets which are genetically part of the treated individual. Adopting methods of islet encapsulation in immuno-isolatory devices would eliminate the need for immuno-suppressants.
Methodology/principal findings: In the present study we explore the potential of human adipose tissue derived adult stem cells (h-ASCs) to differentiate into functional islet like cell aggregates (ICAs). Our stage specific differentiation protocol permit the conversion of mesodermic h-ASCs to definitive endoderm (Hnf3β, TCF2 and Sox17) and to PDX1, Ngn3, NeuroD, Pax4 positive pancreatic endoderm which further matures in vitro to secrete insulin. These ICAs are shown to produce human C-peptide in a glucose dependent manner exhibiting in-vitro functionality. Transplantation of mature ICAs, packed in immuno-isolatory biocompatible capsules to STZ induced diabetic mice restored near normoglycemia within 3-4 weeks. The detection of human C-peptide, 1155±165 pM in blood serum of experimental mice demonstrate the efficacy of our differentiation approach.
Conclusions: h-ASC is an ideal population of personal stem cells for cell replacement therapy, given that they are abundant, easily available and autologous in origin. Our findings present evidence that h-ASCs could be induced to differentiate into physiologically competent functional islet like cell aggregates, which may provide as a source of alternative islets for cell replacement therapy in type 1 diabetes.