Research in the lab of Quinn P. Peterson, Ph.D., aims to build human islets as a cell replacement therapy for type 1 diabetes. The transplantation of these "designer" islets may restore the ability to produce insulin and regulate blood glucose in patients with type 1 diabetes.
For more information about islet regeneration and the work conducted by Dr. Peterson, visit the Center for Regenerative Medicine's Islet Regeneration Program.
- Directed differentiation of stem cells to pancreatic cell types. Using stem cells, Dr. Peterson is developing directed differentiation protocols to generate pancreatic islet cell types, including alpha and beta cells. Stem cell-derived beta cells secrete insulin in response to elevated glucose levels. Stem cell-derived alpha cells secrete glucagon in response to low glucose conditions. Using a large-scale, 3D culture system, researchers can mass produce these cells for chemical screens and transplantation studies as described below.
- Bottom-up islet engineering. Researchers in Dr. Peterson's lab are developing tissue engineering techniques to purify, combine and organize the cells described above into functional islet organoids. Incorporation of additional endocrine cell types, supporting cells, vasculature and extracellular matrix create an islet niche to support appropriate function and survival of stem cell-derived islets.
- Small molecule screening for drug discovery. The cell populations and islets described above represent a unique resource for drug discovery, but access to pancreatic cell types for drug screening has been limited. Using stem cell-derived pancreatic cell populations, Dr. Peterson's lab is identifying new drugs that modulate pancreatic function. These drugs may be helpful in treating both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
- Cell replacement therapy for diabetes. Toward the goal of developing a cell replacement therapy for type 1 diabetes, Dr. Peterson's lab studies the transplantation of stem cell-derived pancreatic cells. These studies aim to understand the requirements for a successful cell replacement therapy and to develop transplantation technologies that will aid in the successful translation of these islets to clinical use.
Significance to patient care
The transplantation of stem cell-derived islets provides a promising approach to treating type 1 diabetes. Successful transplantation of these cells may allow people with type 1 diabetes to produce their own insulin, remove the need for insulin injections and blood glucose monitoring, and eliminate complications from type 1 diabetes.
- Member, Human Islet Research Network, National Institutes of Health, 2014-2017
- Postdoctoral fellowship, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), 2011-2014
- Recipient, Biochemistry Trust of Urbana Award, University of Illinois, 2013