BME Project 6: Constructing microporous polymer scaffolds to transplant embryonic stem cell derived Beta cell progenitors to treat Type I Diabetes

Faculty mentor: Lonnie Shea, Ph.D.
Required skills: Interest in in vitro and in vivo research. Attention to detail. Curiosity and independent decision-making skills desired.
The recent clinical successes using islet transplantation have demonstrated that cell replacement therapy has the potential to be a viable treatment for Type 1 Diabetes. Current clinical approaches deliver islets through the portal vein and subsequently reside within the sinusoids of the liver. This approach requires large numbers of islets due to limited survival or hypofunctionality of the islets following transplantation. The Shea lab is currently directing the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to become Beta cell progenitors in vitro, providing an unlimited source of cells for therapy. We are exploring different approaches to culture the derived cells to improve the maturation and function of the beta cell progenitors. We then use microporous scaffolds consisting of different biomaterials including polymers and hydrogels to deliver the derived cells into a clinically translatable, extrahepatic site of a Diabetic mouse model. The goal of this project will be to promote the engraftment of stem cell derived pancreatic progenitors and their maturation toward mono-hormonal insulin producing Beta cells in order to treat Type 1 Diabetes.