Using brain cells to treat diabetes

Exploring the role of insulin and islet protection factors released from stem cell derived neural cells to help improve treatment for diabetes



We’re investigating how substances released by neural cells and derived from stem cells can protect insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. These substances might help in preserving the function of these cells, which is important for managing conditions like diabetes.

What are we doing?

Cell therapies are now seen as the preferred options for ‘curing’ type 1 diabetes – where people no longer need to inject insulin or do finger prick tests. Our project will test whether using a specific type of stem cellderived brain cell could be a transplantable cell therapy in type 1 diabetes. 

How are we doing it?

We’ll use cutting edge technology to build three dimensional ‘organoids’ – miniature brains that resemble pancreatic islets. We’ll test the organoids for their response to energy such as sugars and fats and see what factors and how they change after exposure.

We aim to:

1.  Test the physiology and pharmacology of specific neural cells  

2: Test whether our specific neural stem cells can protect pancreatic islets and improve their health immediately after transplantation 

What happens next?

We’ll be getting into the lab to begin to carry out these experiments.  If our hypotheses are correct, we’ll bid for larger grants to carry out some more pre-clinical feasibility work. Our ultimate aim, if successful, is to incorporate our cell engineering work into current cell therapies, to give better patient outcomes. 


Dr. Craig Beall, Co-project lead

Natasha MacDonald

Eleanor Pearson 


People involved