Can we create new organs from our own tissues?

S. Ferber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The many new technologies of the past few years have set the stage for novel human therapeutic methods. Identification of pluripotent stem cells as being capable of generating various cell types in the body, together with advanced genetic and cell engineering techniques, may enable the design of custom tissues and organs and thus solve the problem of donor organ scarcity and the need for immune compatibility and immunosuppression to avoid graft rejection. One of the most prevalent metabolic disorders that will benefit from such technologies is insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The purpose of our study is to review potential future methods of curing metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and analyze the capacity to genetically manipulate the development fate of a tissue in vivo using 'master regulator' genes. We systemically delivered the homeobox gene Pancreatic and Duodenal Homeobox gene-1 to liver of mice, by recombinant adenovirus technology, and analyzed whether it induces a developmental shift toward a β cell phenotype. We demonstrated that PDX-1 is sufficient to activate the endogenous, otherwise silent, mouse insulin 1 and 2 and pro-insulin convertase gene expression in liver. PDX-1 expression in liver resulted in a 25-fold increase in hepatic immunoreactive insulin content and a threefold increase in plasma immunoreactive insulin levels, as compared to control adenovirus-treated mice. Hepatic immunoreactive insulin, induced by PDX-1, was processed to mature mI-1 and mI-2 and was biologically active; it ameliorated hyperglycemia in streptozotocin-treated diabetic mice. PDX-1 has the capacity to reprogram extra-pancreatic tissue toward a β cell phenotype. The data provide a valuable approach to generate 'self' surrogate β cells that are suitable for replacing impaired islet cell function in diabetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-36
Number of pages5
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue numberSUPPL. JULY
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Diabetes
  • Genetic engineering
  • Immunosuppression
  • Master regulatory genes


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