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1.  Conditional Hypovascularization and Hypoxia in Islets Do Not Overtly Influence Adult β-Cell Mass or Function 
Diabetes  2013;62(12):4165-4173.
It is generally accepted that vascularization and oxygenation of pancreatic islets are essential for the maintenance of an optimal β-cell mass and function and that signaling by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is crucial for pancreas development, insulin gene expression/secretion, and (compensatory) β-cell proliferation. A novel mouse model was designed to allow conditional production of human sFlt1 by β-cells in order to trap VEGF and study the effect of time-dependent inhibition of VEGF signaling on adult β-cell fate and metabolism. Secretion of sFlt1 by adult β-cells resulted in a rapid regression of blood vessels and hypoxia within the islets. Besides blunted insulin release, β-cells displayed a remarkable capacity for coping with these presumed unfavorable conditions: even after prolonged periods of blood vessel ablation, basal and stimulated blood glucose levels were only slightly increased, while β-cell proliferation and mass remained unaffected. Moreover, ablation of blood vessels did not prevent β-cell generation after severe pancreas injury by partial pancreatic duct ligation or partial pancreatectomy. Our data thus argue against a major role of blood vessels to preserve adult β-cell generation and function, restricting their importance to facilitating rapid and adequate insulin delivery.
PMCID: PMC3837025  PMID: 23974922
2.  Transient cytokine treatment induces acinar cell reprogramming and regenerates functional beta cell mass in diabetic mice 
Nature biotechnology  2013;32(1):76-83.
Reprogramming of pancreatic exocrine cells into cells resembling beta cells may provide a strategy for treating diabetes. Here we show that transient administration of epidermal growth factor and ciliary neurotrophic factor to adult mice with chronic hyperglycemia efficiently stimulates the conversion of terminally differentiated acinar cells to beta-like cells. Newly generated beta-like cells are epigenetically reprogrammed, functional and glucose-responsive, and reinstate normal glycemic control for up to 248 days. The regenerative process depends on Stat3 signaling and requires a threshold number of Neurogenin 3 (Ngn3) expressing acinar cells. In contrast to previous work demonstrating in vivo conversion of acinar cells to beta-like cells by viral delivery of exogenous transcription factors, our approach achieves acinar-to-beta cell reprogramming through transient cytokine exposure rather than genetic modification.
PMCID: PMC4096987  PMID: 24240391
3.  Camelid reporter gene imaging: a generic method for in vivo cell tracking 
EJNMMI Research  2014;4:32.
To combine the sensitivity of bioluminescent imaging (BLI) with the 3D and quantitative properties of pinhole single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)/micro-computed tomography (CT) (phSPECT/micro-CT), we generated stable cell lines that express a yellow-fluorescent protein (YFP) and Gaussia luciferase (GLuc) fusion protein (YFP/GLuc). For in vivo phSPECT detection of this YFP/GLuc protein, a nanobody, targeted against yellow and green fluorescent proteins (anti-YFP-Nb), was site specifically labelled with 99mTc.
Human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293T) were cultured and passaged every 3 days. 10E5 cells were transduced with YFP/GLuc-containing vector: both membrane-targeted (MT-YFP/GLuc) and non-targeted (YFP/GLuc) fusion proteins were developed. These vectors were compared against a SKOV-3 cell line stably expressing green fluorescent-firefly luciferase (GFP/Fluc) and HEK293T cells expressing red fluorescent protein in combination with a Gaussia luciferase (Red/GLuc). Transduction efficiencies were scored by fluorescence microscopy, and transduced cells were enriched by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). GLuc and FLuc functionality was tested in vitro by list-mode BLI. Subsequently, cells were transplanted subcutaneously in athymic (nu/nu) mice (MT-YFP/GLuc: n = 4, YFP/GLuc: n = 6, GFP/FLuc: n = 6, Red/GLuc: n = 4). Labelling efficiency of anti-YFP-Nb was measured using instant thin layer chromatography. One week after transplantation, 99mTc-labelled anti-YFP-Nb was injected intravenously and pinhole (ph) SPECT/micro-CT was performed, followed by in vivo BLI.
Cells showed high levels of fluorescence after transduction. The cells containing the MT-YFP/GLuc were positive on fluorescence microscopy, with the fluorescent signal confined to the cell membrane. After cell sorting, transduced cells were assayed by BLI and showed a significantly higher light output both in vitro and in vivo compared with non-transduced HEK293T cells. The anti-YFP-Nb labelling efficiency was 98%, and subsequent phSPECT/micro-CT demonstrated visible cell binding and significantly higher transplant-to-muscle ratio for both the MT-YFP/GLuc and YFP/GLuc transplanted cells, compared with the GFP/FLuc and Red/GLuc group.
This study provides a proof of principle for a nanobody-based cell tracking method, using a YFP/GLuc fusion protein and anti-YFP-Nb in a model of subcutaneously transplanted transduced HEK293T cells.
PMCID: PMC4086443  PMID: 25024930
Cell tracking; Fluorescence; Bioluminescence; SPECT/CT; Nanobody; YFP
4.  Gene delivery to pancreatic exocrine cells in vivo and in vitro 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:74.
Effective gene transfer to the pancreas or to pancreatic cells has remained elusive although it is essential for studies of genetic lineage tracing and modulation of gene expression. Different transduction methods and viral vectors were tested in vitro and in vivo, in rat and mouse pancreas.
For in vitro transfection/transduction of rat exocrine cells lipofection reagents, adenoviral vectors, and Mokola- and VSV-G pseudotyped lentiviral vectors were used. For in vivo transduction of mouse and rat pancreas adenoviral vectors and VSV-G lentiviral vectors were injected into the parenchymal tissue. Both lipofection of rat exocrine cell cultures and transduction with Mokola pseudotyped lentiviral vectors were inefficient and resulted in less than 4% EGFP expressing cells. Adenoviral transduction was highly efficient but its usefulness for gene delivery to rat exocrine cells in vitro was hampered by a drastic increase in cell death. In vitro transduction of rat exocrine cells was most optimal with VSV-G pseudotyped lentiviral vectors, with stable transgene expression, no significant effect on cell survival and about 40% transduced cells. In vivo, pancreatic cells could not be transduced by intra-parenchymal administration of lentiviral vectors in mouse and rat pancreas. However, a high efficiency could be obtained by adenoviral vectors, resulting in transient transduction of mainly exocrine acinar cells. Injection in immune-deficient animals diminished leukocyte infiltration and prolonged transgene expression.
In summary, our study remarkably demonstrates that transduction of pancreatic exocrine cells requires lentiviral vectors in vitro but adenoviral vectors in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3487942  PMID: 23088534
Lentiviral vector; Adenoviral vector; Lipofection; Gene transfer; Pancreas; Acinar cell

Results 1-5 (5)