Cellular therapies are emerging as a novel treatment strategy for diabetes. Thus, the induction of endogenous islet regeneration in situ represents a feasible goal for diabetes therapy. Umbilical cord blood-derived hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs), isolated by high aldehyde dehydrogenase activity (ALDHhi), have previously been shown to reduce hyperglycemia after intrapancreatic (iPan) transplantation into streptozotocin (STZ)-treated nonobese diabetic (NOD)/severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice. However, these cells are rare and require ex vivo expansion to reach clinically applicable numbers for human therapy. Therefore, we investigated whether BMS 493, an inverse retinoic acid receptor agonist, could prevent retinoic acid-induced differentiation and preserve islet regenerative functions during expansion. After 6-day expansion, BMS 493-treated cells showed a twofold increase in the number of ALDHhi cells available for transplantation compared with untreated controls. Newly expanded ALDHhi cells showed increased numbers of CD34 and CD133-positive cells, as well as a reduction in CD38 expression, a marker of hematopoietic cell differentiation. BMS 493-treated cells showed similar hematopoietic colony-forming capacity compared with untreated cells, with ALDHhi subpopulations producing more colonies than low aldehyde dehydrogenase activity subpopulations for expanded cells. To determine if the secreted proteins of these cells could augment the survival and/or proliferation of β-cells in vitro, conditioned media (CM) from cells expanded with or without BMS 493 was added to human islet cultures. The total number of proliferating β-cells was increased after 3- or 7-day culture with CM generated from BMS 493-treated cells. In contrast to freshly isolated ALDHhi cells, 6-day expansion with or without BMS 493 generated progeny that were unable to reduce hyperglycemia after iPan transplantation into STZ-treated NOD/SCID mice. Further strategies to reduce retinoic acid differentiation during HPC expansion is required to expand ALDHhi cells without the loss of islet regenerative functions.
Keywords: cell expansion; cord blood; diabetes; hematopoiesis; retinoic acid.