Maturation of the human fetal pancreas: A lesson for embryonic stem cell differentiation as a therapy for diabetes

Bernard E. Tuch, Steven Y. Gao, Jennifer C Y Wong, Justin G. Lees

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


In the early 1980s, the transplantation of the human fetal pancreas was promoted as a possible therapy for those with insulin-dependent diabetes. Blood glucose levels in diabetic rodent recipients were normalized with this immature tissue as it differentiated into glucose-responsive beta cells months after being transplanted. However, trials in diabetic humans did not achieve the desired outcome, likely because of immunological rejection by the recipient. Several decades, the lessons learnt from studying the human fetal pancreas are being applied to differentiate human embryonic stem cells (hESC) into mature beta cells. Whilst the initial differentiation of the hESC, into pancreatic progenitors, is carried out in vitro, the final stages of development occur when the tissue is transplanted, just as was described for the human fetal pancreas. Placing pancreatic progenitors in an immunoisolation device prior to transplantation offers a method of administering them without the need for anti-rejection drugs. Clinical trials with these isolated cell clusters are being planned.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Fetal Tissue Transplantation
PublisherSpringer-Verlag London Ltd.
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781447141716
ISBN (Print)1447141709, 9781447141709
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes

Cite this