Three-dimensional clusters of pancreatic beta-cells that live much longer and secrete more insulin than single cells grown in the laboratory are valuable new tools for studying pancreatic diseases such as diabetes and for testing novel therapies.
“Finding a solution for the culturing and final transplantation of pancreatic cells will be an enormous breakthrough for the treatment of diabetes,” says John Jansen, DDS, PhD, Methods Co-Editor-in-Chief and Professor and Chairman, Department of Periodontology and Biomaterials, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, The Netherlands.
Growing pancreatic cells in the laboratory is challenging, in part because to survive and function normally they require cell-cell contact. Abigail Bernard, Chien-Chi Lin, PhD, and Kristi Anseth, PhD, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, developed an innovative method that uses photolithography to create microwell cell culture environments that support the formation of 3-D pancreatic beta-cell clusters and control the size of the cell aggregates. They describe the ability to remove these cell clusters from the microwells and encapsulate them in hydrogels for subsequent testing or implantation.
Health-e-Solutions comment: Since our beta cells are in 3-D clusters in our pancreas, this seems to be a positive step in the right direction. Even so, we are convinced that lifestyle changes will remain important to protect and preserve beta cells, even if they can be regenerated or replaced. That is one of the reasons why we adhere to the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle for optimal management of blood glucose in out two boys with type 1 diabetes.