Scientific highlights

28.05.2020

3 HDC institutes collaboration winners

IDR, ITS and IPI collaboration winners of the pilot innovation competition initiated by the BMBF

Stem cell derived islet with alpha cells (green) and beta cells (red) © Noel Moya

Organ replacement from the lab: eISLET-Project wins a pilot innovation competition award

Four research groups of the HMGU are among the winners of the pilot innovation competition for the promotion of disruptive innovations by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The aim is to support the development of innovations of particular technological and social relevance.

In juvenile type 1 diabetes, the beta cells are mistakenly attacked and destroyed by the patient's own immune system.  This is known as autoimmunity. The formerly fatal disease is nowadays treated by injecting insulin as needed. Type 1 diabetes can be cured by clinical islet cell transplantation. Although this therapy has been established for 20 years and is considered very safe, there are two major hurdles: the suppression of the immune system to prevent rejection of the transplanted material and the lack of donor material available for islet cell transplantation. Within the eISLET project, four institutes of the HMGU with different expertise are working together in order to create functional islets for transplantation. eISLET is a collaboration between the Institute of Diabetes and Regeneration Research, led by Prof. Heiko Lickert, the Bioengineering and Microfluidics group at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus, headed by Dr. Matthias Meier, the Institute for Translational Stem Cell Research, headed by Prof. Henrik Semb, and the Institute for Pancreatic Islet Cell Research, led by Prof. Michele Solimena. eIslet is jointly coordinated by Lickert and Meier.

In the next three years, the researchers aim to produce alpha and beta cells, essential for the formation of fully functional islets in the pancreas, from inducible pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). The idea is to reproduce the Langerhans' islets of the body both cell-biologically and physiologically and to achieve a function comparable to that of the natural organ.