To save patients with a severe form of type 1 diabetes (characterized by the absence of functional insulin-producing cells), pancreatic cell transplantation is sometimes the last resort.
The pancreas contains cell clusters – called islets of Langerhans – where cells that produce blood glucose regulating hormones are grouped together. However, the transplant process is long and complex: a significant part of the grafted cells die quickly without being able to engraft.
By adding amniotic epithelial cells to these cell clusters, researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG), Switzerland, have succeeded in creating much more robust “superislets” of Langerhans.
Once transplanted, more of them engraft; they then start producing insulin much more rapidly. These results, to be discovered in Nature Communications, would not only improve the success of cell transplants, but also offer new perspectives for other types of transplants, including stem cell transplantation.