Nuclear transfer is essential building block for diabetes cellular therapy

Dieter Egli, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of HSCI principal faculty member Kevin Eggan. He is an HSCI-affiliated faculty member and HSCI’s second Singer seed grant recipient. Egli will use his grant to support his work with fertilized human egg and cleavage stage embryos, obtained from couples whose reproductive treatment is complete. Central to his work is the transfer of the genetic material from a mature (donor) cell into an egg whose own genetic information has been removed. This mature cell’s genetic information is then reprogrammed into an embryonic cell state. Normal and diabetic donor cells have been obtained from patients in collaboration with Columbia University; each donor has given consent for these experiments.

Egli’s research goals include generating normal human embryonic stem cells from a mature adult cell and, in collaboration with Alice Chen, a postdoctoral fellow in Harvard’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Doug Melton, HSCI codirector, creating human ES cells specific for a diabetes patient. In work recently published in Nature, Egli has proved that this technique works in mice. He has now started to establish an equivalent technique using human fertilized eggs. The ability to closely examine the function of diabetes stem cells could be a key step on the journey to developing effective therapeutics.