In what could be a step toward cell replacement therapy for diabetes, Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered how to manufacture cells capable of generating a hormone that regulates low blood sugar. Quinn Peterson, Ph.D., and his team have developed a new method of mass producing a cell product containing the hormone glucagon that is capable of protecting against hypoglycemia in animal models. Dr. Peterson’s research is published in the May 7, 2020 edition of Nature Communications.

“We now have the ability to manufacture large quantities of an important cell type that is necessary to prevent hypoglycemia and regulate blood glucose in patients with diabetes. Generating pancreatic cell types from renewable sources holds promise for cell replacement therapies for diabetes,” says Dr. Peterson, principal investigator.

Quinn Peterson, Ph.D.

The new cell product is human tissue derived from pluripotent stem cells, which have the capacity to self-renew and convert into alpha cells containing glucagon. When transplanted into animals, Dr. Peterson’s team discovered, these cells defended against hypoglycemia. Researchers hope someday these biomanufactured cells could restore cell function lost to diabetes.

Dr. Peterson estimates that the first test of these cells in human clinical trials could take place by 2022.

This work was supported in part by benefactor gifts to the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine, including the Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family, J.W. Kieckhefer Foundation and the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation. Colleagues at Harvard University and University of Gothenburg participated in this study. 

Read more on the Center for Regenerative Medicine blog.