Updated: May 26, 2024

Published: July 10, 2019

Disruptive 3D Cell Technology Drives Innovative Diabetes R&D at ADA2019

InSphero CEO Jan Lichtenberg reflects on ADA2019 and how InSphero is enabling T1D and T2D Discovery with our 3D InSight™ Diabetes Discovery Platform.

Over the past few years, diabetes R&D has become a key application for our 3D InSight™ technology, complementing our liver disease, oncology, and liver safety solutions. That's why I was excited to have the opportunity to join my 3D InSight™ Diabetes Discovery Platform experts, Dr. Burcak Yesildag and Dr. Joan Mir Coll, at the 2019 American Diabetes Association (ADA2019) meeting in San Francisco.

It was a privilege to witness the growing interest in applying new, more predictive in vitro technologies to upgrade research in islet biology and support drug discovery for type 1 and type 2 diabetes (T1D and T2D, respectively). In the scientific program, together with our research partners Novo Nordisk and AstraZeneca, we shared our latest data using islet/PBMC co-cultures for studying T1D and a new study on viral transduction of human pancreatic islets. In case you weren't able to catch up with Burcak and Joan at ADA2019, here's what you missed:

A Novel In Vitro Human Islet Platform for Studying Type 1 Diabetes

TD1 is a group of disorders primarily characterized by the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic β-cells, resulting in absolute insulin deficiency. Traditional research models lack many functions critical for understanding both the onset and progression of this disease in patients. In collaboration with Novo Nordisk, we applied our 3D InSight™ Human Islet Microtissues to develop a cytokine-induced islet dysfunction assay and an islet PBMC co-culture model, both ideal for the study of T1D.

An image depicting InSphero's 3D Select Process for human pancreatic islet spheroids

A Novel Standardized In Vitro Model for Highly Efficient and Homogenous Viral Transduction of Human Pancreatic Islets

We teamed up with researchers at AstraZeneca to develop a better tool for the modification of gene expression in human pancreatic islets to foster T1 and T2 diabetes R&D. Modifying gene expression is a powerful strategy for dissecting the pathophysiological mechanisms involved in the onset and progression of both T1D and T2D – as well as a valuable tool for developing novel therapeutic strategies.

Our 3D InSight™ Human Islet Microtissues are produced by optimized dissociation and controlled re-aggregation of primary islet cells, a process that allows for precise control over the size of newly forming islet microtissues. We exploited this process to introduce genetic modifications to islet endocrine cells through adenoviral transduction.

Fueling pioneering innovation in diabetes and metabolic research

I also encourage you to read some of the peer-reviewed papers that demonstrate the versatility and power of our platform for modeling healthy and diseased pancreatic islet function. For example, in a recent study published in ScienceAdvances, researchers in the Innovative Medicines and Early Development (IMED) Biotech Unit of AstraZeneca used InSphero 3D InSight™ Human Islet Microtissues to evaluate the effects of antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) on glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) in human pancreatic beta-cells. A promising new class of therapeutic molecules, ASOs are short, chemically modified, single-stranded nucleic acids that can silence any gene product of interest. The AstraZeneca research team, headed by Dr. Carina Ämmälä, Team Leader in Cardiovascular, Renal, and Metabolism (CVRM) at IMED, engineered a novel targeted delivery approach for ASO uptake specifically by pancreatic beta-cells. They successfully demonstrated that the ASO target gene in beta-cells could be silenced without affecting gene expression in other cell types.

If you'd like to learn more about these projects or if you want to work with our diabetes R&D team to develop novel applications for 3D InSight™ Human Islet Microtissues and new methods that will advance research in the field, start here.

I think you'll be as impressed as I am!

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