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A low frequency of pancreatic islet insulin-expressing cells derived from cord blood stem cell allografts in humans



We sought to establish if stem cells contained in cord blood cell allografts have the capacity to differentiate into insulin-expressing beta cells in humans.


We studied pancreases obtained at autopsy from individuals (n = 11) who had prior opposite-sex cord blood transplants to reconstitute haematopoiesis. Pancreatic tissue sections were stained first by XY-fluorescence in situ hybridisation and then insulin immunohistochemistry. Pancreases obtained at autopsy from participants without cord blood cell infusions served as controls (n = 11).


In the men with prior transplant of female cord blood, there were 3.4 ± 0.3% XX-positive insulin-expressing islet cells compared with 0.32 ± 0.05% (p < 0.01) in male controls. In women with prior transplant of male cord blood cells we detected 1.03 ± 0.20% XY insulin-expressing islet cells compared with 0.03 ± 0.03 in female controls (p < 0. 001).


Cord blood stem cells have the capacity to differentiate into insulin-expressing cells in non-diabetic humans. It remains to be established whether these cells have the properties of beta cells.

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