Research published in 2016 has identified a population of progenitor cells within the pancreas of mice and human that can give rise to new insulin-producing cells in vitro. These were not predominantly located in situ within the mature islets of Langerhans, but in small clusters of endocrine cells throughout the pancreas. The total number of progenitor cells was high in early life but declined with age. This suggests that progenitor cells with the potential to become insulin-producing cells exist throughout life and may represent a source of β-cell plasticity to reverse diabetes. As a step towards mobilizing these cells we have examined the ability of grafted bone marrow-derived stem cells to reverse diabetes in mice. Marrow-derived cells migrated to the diabetic pancreas and specifically activated progenitor beta cell proliferation.
We completed in 2016 a Pan-European clinical trial for the prevention of gestational diabetes. We are now following up both women and their offspring from the previous study to determine the extent to which interventions in pregnancy alter the development of subsequent type 2 diabetes in the mothers, and the development of obesity and glucose intolerance in the offspring.
Dr. David Hill holds the Lawson Professorship in Diabetes Research and is a Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Physiology & Pharmacology and Paediatrics, at Western University. He is Scientific Director of Lawson Health Research Institute and the Integrated Vice President, Research for London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London.
Educated at the University of Nottingham and at Worcester College, University of Oxford, he has published over 200 scientific papers and maintains an active program in diabetes research and stem cell biology. He is a recipient of the CDA’s Frederick G. Banting Award, as well as of the Medal of the Society for Endocrinology from the UK. Dr. Hill was inducted as a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) in 2011.
Dr. Hill’s research centres on the generation of new insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas as a strategy for the reversal of diabetes