Research Group

  • Dr. Jon S. Odorico, Principal Investigator
  • Dr. Nadya Lumelsky, Associate


  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA


  • Derivation of Insulin Producing Cells from Embryonic Stem Cell Lines

Transplantation of the whole pancreas and isolated pancreatic islets has greatly improved the treatment of diabetes mellitus in recent years. However, transplantation of organs from cadaver donors cannot be offered to all diabetics because of the severely limited supply of suitable donors, and because of the often fatal immunological complications associated with such organ transplantation. Stem cell therapy is beginning to emerge now as a potential alternative strategy for the treatment of many human diseases. The aim of stem cell therapy is to replace, repair or enhance the physiological function of damaged tissue or organs by providing the recipient with the cells that can be engineered outside the body to serve this physiological function. Embryonic stem (ES) cells represent a very promising source for stem cell therapy because they are immortal, can be grown in large quantities, and can be genetically engineered outside the body to escape immune attack by the recipient. Moreover, ES cells are capable of giving rise to several different functional cell types. For instance, cardiac muscle cells, nerve cells, and red blood cells have been grown from ES cells in tissue culture. We have recently found that ES cells can also be induced to produce some of the pancreatic hormones, but this hormone production is still relatively inefficient. In the proposed work, we are undertaking the task of transforming ES cells into functional insulin-producing cells by further enhancing their hormone production while expanding the number of hormone-producing cells. Achieving this goal will have important therapeutic benefits for treating diabetes.