Congratulations to BCDRN Steering Committee faculty member Dr. Timothy Kieffer, Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences in the Life Sciences Institute as recipient of a CFI John R Evans Leaders Fund infrastructure award..
Grant title: Stem Cell and Genome Editing Lab
Project Summary: Type 1 diabetes is caused by the loss of beta-cells, which release insulin, the essential hormone for lowering blood sugar. One can only survive a few weeks without these cells, so people living with type 1 diabetes depend upon daily insulin injections. Unfortunately, blood sugar is not fully controlled by this method and diabetes is still a leading cause of heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation. Beta-cell transplant reduces complications, but donor tissue is limited. In 2014, Dr. Timothy Kieffer reported a protocol to generate large quantities of beta-like cells from stem cells. However, despite optimistic press reports, these cells and those produced by others are not the same as healthy human beta-cells. The first diabetes clinical trials of a stem cell-derived product are underway but generating bona fide beta-cells remains a major focus of the field, along with exploring the feasibility of genome editing the cells for optimal function and protection from immune-based rejection. To achieve these goals, the requested infrastructure will provide advanced systems for optimizing differentiation protocols and scale-up of cell cultivation methods, high throughput genome editing aimed at improving safety and efficacy of stem cell products, and rigorous functional assessments of resulting cells. CFI investment will maintain Dr. Kieffer’s global leadership position in the quest to manufacture beta-cells to cure diabetes.