University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Geometric and Functional Encapsulation of Islets for Transplantation

Research Area

Grant Type



For patients with type 1 diabetes who have lost their own insulin-producing beta cells, the only current cure is to replace the lost beta cell through transplantation. Islet transplantation is effective in making patients insulin independent and greatly improves their quality of life. However, often it takes islets from several donors to cure one recipient, making this treatment very limited because of donor shortage.

A major reason for the need for multiple donors is that more than 80% of the islets die within the first week after transplantation. Although stem cell technology holds the promise of unlimited supply of islets, stem cell-derived islets also die during the first few days after transplant.

We found that the causes of islet death are the lack of adequate oxygen and nutrient supplies during this period. We plan to study the changes induced in beta cells by the shortage of oxygen and nutrients. We expect that some of these changes help the beta cells survive the transient oxygen and nutrient shortage and some of these changes cause the cells to die.

We will develop approaches to enhance the changes that promote islet survival and inhibit the changes that cause beta cell death. In addition, we plan to create a device for proper spacing of the islets after transplant so they do not compete with each other for oxygen and nutrients.

This study aims at overcoming one of the major challenges in islet transplantation and allowing more diabetic patients to receive this curative therapy.