Beta cell biology


Head of Unit

Lorenzo Piemonti


The aim is to create conditions for the expansion and survival of beta cells under native conditions or after transplantation. In previous years Beta cell biology Unit is able to assess the impact of in beta-cell changes on immune status of diabetic patients receiving an islet transplantation, the effectiveness of immunotherapies and their ability to control autoimmune and allogeneic responses. The results demonstrated that the survival of transplanted islets in the liver, both allogeneic and syngeneic, is sub- optimal, the inflammatory response plays an important role in the survival and function of islets, and the current immunosuppressive regimens are not able to effectively control the allogeneic and autoimmune responses.

Research activity

To obtain the long-term replacement of the beta cells in patients with diabetes Beta cell biology Unit therefore proposes:
  1.  to study alternative sites for islet transplantation;
  2.  to develop new strategies for the survival of islet by modulating/inhibiting inflammation;
  3. to improve the success of islet transplantation by cotransplantation with feeder cells;
  4. to determine the mechanisms of immunization and destruction related to islet autoantigens;
  5. to identify a renewable source of cells to be used for implementing the transplantable beta cell mass, in particular pluripotent stem cells. 
Last achievements, among the others, are the extention of the indication for islet autotransplantation and the development of a T regulatory accommodating immunosuppression (Calcineurin Inhibitor-Free) platform in islet transplantation. Moreover, target innate immune response was identified as complementary immunomodulatory strategy and BM was recognized as an alternative site for beta cell replacement.