Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Zavazava, Nicholas

First Committee Member

Assouline, Jose

Second Committee Member

Kwitek, Anne

Third Committee Member

Sutterwala, Fayyaz

Fourth Committee Member

Mackey, Michael


Type I diabetes (T1D) is caused by autoimmune destruction of pancreatic β-cells. Immediate consequences of T1D are severe weight loss, ketoacidosis and death unless insulin is administered. The long-term consequences of T1D are dysregulation of metabolism leading to cardiovascular complications, neuropathy and kidney insufficiency. It is estimated that 3 million Americans have T1D, and its prevalence among young individuals is progressively rising. Islet transplantation is the most effective way to treat T1D. Unfortunately, there is a chronic shortage of cadaveric organ donors to treat all of the patients on the waiting list. Thus, an alternative source of insulin producing cells (IPCs) could significantly improve patient treatment. Our lab seeks to establish human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells as a novel source of IPCs that are patient tailored. The aim of this thesis was to 1) compare the differentiation of T1D and nondiabetic (ND) patient-derived iPS cells into IPCs, and 2) devise an effective protocol for differentiating skin fibroblast-derived T1D iPS cells into functional, glucose-responsive IPCs. Initially, T1D iPS cells were differentiated into IPCs. However, the yield was very poor. We hypothesized that epigenetic barriers were prevalent in T1D iPS cells, limiting their differentiation into IPCs. To address this problem, we utilized 5-aza-2’-deoxycytidine (5-aza-DC), a potent demethylating agent that inhibits the DNA methyltransferase (Dnmt). We reasoned that the use of a demethylation agent might induce a more labile, permissive state, allowing for greater cell responses to differentiation stimuli. Typically, after the differentiation of T1D iPS cells, several cell cluster types are obtained, namely compact cell clusters and hollow cysts. 5-aza-DC treatment appeared to convert all of the cell clusters into characteristic islet-like compact structures. In contrast, in untreated T1D IPC cultures, we observed the dominant presence of many hollow cysts with only a few tight spheroids. The hollow cysts stained negative for insulin whereas the rare solid spheroids highly expressed insulin. Flow cytometry analysis indicated a much greater percentage of Pdx1+ and insulin+ cells in 5-Aza-DC-treated cultures. These cells express markers typical of pancreatic β-cells, possessed insulin granules in similar quantities as islets, and were glucose-responsive. When transplanted in immunodeficient mice that had developed streptozotozin-induced diabetes, there was a dramatic decrease of hyperglycemia within 28 days. These mice effectively managed glucose challenge by recovering to normoglycemia, whereas nontransplanted mice did not. Altogether, our data for the first time reveal a very high yield of functional IPCs derived from human iPS cells derived from a patient with T1D, which presents a novel alternative source of IPCs that could be used to treat T1D.


Diabetes, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, Insulin Producing Cells, iPS cells, Stem Cells, Tissue Engineering


xiii, 177 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 164-177).


Copyright © 2015 Gohar Shahwar Manzar