Development of an Automated, Large-scale and Rapid System to Search for Compounds that Induce Beta Cell Proliferation

Identifying chemical compounds capable of inducing a desired biological response is often the first step in developing new drugs. Robotic screening tools allow rapid and parallel testing of hundreds of thousands to millions of compounds to find the few that will have the desired effect. Robotic screening for molecules with effects on human beta cells is limited by the lack of availability of continuously-growing human beta cells and the lack of suitable conditions to grow human islets. These investigators describe a novel method for the lab production of human islets for use in robotic screening for molecules that induce proliferation of human beta cells. The researchers have now validated their system by showing that the lab-produced beta cells retain normal beta cell function and responded as expected to known inducers and inhibitors of beta cell proliferation. A small pilot test was successful, setting the stage for larger screening efforts in the future.


Walpita, D., Hasaka, T., Spoonamore, J., Vetere A, Takane KK, Fomina-Yadlin D, Fiaschi-Taesch N, Shamji A, Clemons PA, Stewart AF, Schreiber SL, Wagner BK. (2011). A Human Islet Cell Culture System for High-Throughput Screening. J Biomol Screen, epub. December 7, 2011, doi: 10.1177/1087057111430253.

Ramifications for Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes:

This work describes an automated, large-scale and rapid system for screening for chemicals that can induce beta cell proliferation. Future efforts will be aimed at identifying such chemicals and determining if they are suitable for development as drugs or therapeutics to help restore beta cell mass in individuals with T1D.

JDRF Involvement:

This work was supported, in part, by a JDRF Strategic Research Agreement with Dr. Schreiber.