Research ArticleDiabetes

Gene-edited human stem cell–derived β cells from a patient with monogenic diabetes reverse preexisting diabetes in mice

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Science Translational Medicine  22 Apr 2020:
Vol. 12, Issue 540, eaax9106
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aax9106

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Repaired β cells for replacement therapy

Wolfram syndrome is a recessive genetic disease caused by mutations in WFS1 (Wolfram syndrome 1) and can present with a multitude of symptoms including diabetes, optic atrophy, and neurological problems. There is currently no cure and patients are managed with symptomatic treatment. Maxwell et al. corrected a WFS1 pathogenic variant in patient fibroblast-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that they then differentiated to pancreatic β cells. The gene-corrected β cells showed improved glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and reversed hyperglycemia for 6 months after their transplantation into diabetic mice. This study may open up the possibility of autologous β cell transplants for patients with Wolfram syndrome.


Differentiation of insulin-producing pancreatic β cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from patients with diabetes promises to provide autologous cells for diabetes cell replacement therapy. However, current approaches produce patient iPSC-derived β (SC-β) cells with poor function in vitro and in vivo. Here, we used CRISPR-Cas9 to correct a diabetes-causing pathogenic variant in Wolfram syndrome 1 (WFS1) in iPSCs derived from a patient with Wolfram syndrome (WS). After differentiation to β cells with our recent six-stage differentiation strategy, corrected WS SC-β cells performed robust dynamic insulin secretion in vitro in response to glucose and reversed preexisting streptozocin-induced diabetes after transplantation into mice. Single-cell transcriptomics showed that corrected SC-β cells displayed increased insulin and decreased expression of genes associated with endoplasmic reticulum stress. CRISPR-Cas9 correction of a diabetes-inducing gene variant thus allows for robust differentiation of autologous SC-β cells that can reverse severe diabetes in an animal model.

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