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OBJECTIVE: CD34(+) cells, present within the bone marrow, have previously been shown to possess pancreatic endocrine potential. Based on this observation, we explored the capacity of CD34(+) cells derived in culture from the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESC), for their in vivo pancreatic endocrine capacity. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Sheep were transplanted with hESC-derived CD34(+) cells, as well as nonsorted differentiated cultures. Transplantations were carried out with in utero intraperitoneal injections prior to development of the immune system in the fetus so that tolerance toward foreign antigens was acquired during gestation and persisted in the adult. RESULTS: All cell populations that were tested demonstrated human cellular activity and long-term presence up to 5 years. However, the in vivo beta-cell-like activity achieved from the transplantation of the sorted CD34(+) cell population was not augmented by transplanting the entire cell population from which the CD34(+) cells were isolated. Human DNA and insulin messenger RNA were detected in sheep pancreases. An average of 1.51 ng/mL human C-peptide was detected in serum from eight animals transplanted with differentiated cell populations and assayed up to 55 months posttransplantation. Transplantation of as few as 23,500 cells resulted in long-term sustainable beta-cell-like activity. Teratomas were absent in the transplanted animals. CONCLUSION: Our data suggest that hESC-derived CD34(+) cells have a potential for long-term in vivo endocrine cellular activity that could prove useful in regenerative medicine. Because the same cell population has previously been shown to contain hematopoietic potential, it could be used for the induction of immunological tolerance and bone marrow chimerism prior to cellular therapy for diabetes.

Original publication




Journal article


Exp hematol

Publication Date





516 - 525.e4


Animals, Antigens, CD34, Base Sequence, Blood Glucose, Cell Differentiation, DNA, DNA Primers, Embryonic Stem Cells, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Insulin, Islets of Langerhans, RNA, Messenger, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Sheep