Dr. Yoshihara Awarded $3 Million NIH R01 Grant for Diabetes Stem Cell Therapy Research

Dr. Yoshihara will investigate cutting-edge transcriptional gene regulation processes.

Dr. Yoshihara

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a division of the National Institutes of Health, has granted Eiji Yoshihara, PhD, a principal investigator at The Lundquist Institute (TLI) and assistant professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, a five-year grant totaling $3 million. This prestigious NIH R01 grant, known for its rigorous peer-review process, is dedicated to advancing stem cell therapy research for treating diabetes.
Insulin-dependent diabetes, including autoimmune Type 1 and stress-induced Type 2, presents a significant health burden, often necessitating lifelong insulin therapy and glucose monitoring. While pancreatic islet transplantation offers a ray of hope for Type 1 diabetes, its applicability is hindered by donor shortages and the need for immunosuppression. Dr. Yoshihara's research focuses on the potential of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to create functional islet cells. 

Overcoming the limitations of current stem cell-derived organoids, which are three-dimensional structures that mimic the function of an organ and include functional immaturity and heterogeneity, Dr. Yoshihara’s team aims to discover markers to differentiate mature organoids, optimizing their clinical utility. Furthermore, the research team, led by Dr. Yoshihara, will investigate cutting-edge transcriptional gene regulation processes that are anticipated to accelerate the maturation of organoids. 

“Despite significant progress in stem cell-derived mini-organ technologies, we are still challenged by their functional immaturity and variability,” said Dr. Yoshihara. “There are no effective methods to differentiate between mature and immature organoids in dishes. By identifying markers to distinguish these ‘good’ and ‘bad’ organoids and developing techniques to segregate organoids of optimal quality, we aim to propel cell therapy in diabetes into a more promising future.”

Dr. Yoshihara is a renowned expert in stem cell therapy. This innovative research is supported by the NIDDK, committed to generating vital knowledge and developing treatments for chronic and costly diseases, ultimately improving patient care and health outcomes nationwide.