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

Abstract

Aims/hypothesis

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.

Methods

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).

Results

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).

Conclusions/interpretation

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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