Welcome to the Lakey Lab Website

The UCI Diabetes Stem Cell and Islet Research Laboratory is an organized research group dedicated to basic stem cell and islet research primarily focusing on Type I and II Diabetes mellitus. The research laboratory is located in Shanbrom Hall on the UCI Medical campus as well as the Sue & Bill Gross Center on the Medical School Health Sciences campus.

UCI Medical Center

UCI Medical Center~ Orange, CA


Graduate and undergraduate students interested in Stem Cell and Islet research should fill out the application on the Research section of the website.

What is our research doing with collaborators?

US-based regenerative medicine firm ViaCyte has received a $16.6m Accelerated Development Pathway grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to develop a stem cell-derived islet replacement therapy called VC-01 to treat patients with type 1 diabetes.

VC-01 has recently secured clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate evaluation in human clinical trials.

The company’s stem cell-based therapy has been supported by several prior rounds of funding from CIRM.

The VC-01 combination product candidate includes pancreatic progenitor cells, called PEC-01 cells, derived from human stem cell line, encapsulated in the company’s Encaptra device.

When implanted under the skin, the PEC-01 cells are designed to mature and further differentiate into insulin-producing beta and other endocrine cells that regulate blood glucose similar or identical to the islets that normally include the endocrine pancreas.

ViaCyte president and CEO Dr. Paul Laikind said,”Today’s grant allows us to continue to accelerate our efforts as we move into the critically important stage of evaluating VC-01 in human clinical trials.”

Recently, the FDA has accepted the company’s investigational new drug (IND) application of the VC-01 product candidate.

The funding from CIRM will help in supporting the recently started Phase I/II clinical trial in patients with type 1 diabetes, as well as additional clinical testing in the future.

The Phase I/II trial is designed to assess VC-01 directly in patients with type 1 diabetes who have minimal to no insulin-producing beta cell function.

The VC-01 development program is also supported by JDRF, a global organization focused on type 1 diabetes research.

The trial is also designed to show the effectiveness of the VC-01 product candidate in replacing the lost endocrine function that is central to the disease.


High-Fat Dairy May Lower Diabetes Risk

Sept. 16, 2014 — New Swedish research shows that eating and drinking high-fat dairy products is linked to a lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes. This finding appears to contradict current guidance, which recommends people with diabetes choose low-fat dairy products whenever possible.

The new research was presented at this year’s annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). It shows that people who had eight or more portions of high-fat dairy products per day had a 23% lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes than those who had one or fewer portions per day.

The study included 26,930 people (60% women) ages 45-74. During 14 years of follow-up, 2,860 type 2 diabetes cases were spotted.

It’s thought that dietary fats could have a crucial role in someone developing type 2 diabetes.

Previous studies have indicated that replacing high levels of saturated fat with “good” unsaturated fats might be the best way to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Some experts suggest plant sources of fat (e.g. spreads made with sunflower or olive oil) as a better choice than animal sources of fat (e.g. butter).

Other studies say that eating and drinking lots of dairy products may be protective.

The researchers found that having 1 ounce or more of cream per day was tied to a 15% drop in type 2 risk, compared to having only 0.01 ounce or less per day.

High-fat fermented milk fat, found in yogurts and milk with a regular fat content of around 3%, also cut the risk of getting diabetes by 20%, when comparing people who drank 6 ounces of it per day with those who didn’t drink any.

Eating a lot of meat and meat products was linked with greater risk, though.

In a press release, researcher Ulrika Ericson of Lund University Diabetes Center in Sweden says: “Our findings suggest that in contrast to animal fats in general, fats specific to dairy products may have a role in prevention of type 2 diabetes.”

In a statement, Dr. Richard Elliot, Diabetes UK research communications manager, says: “This study adds to research which suggests that different sources of fat in the diet affect the risk of type 2 diabetes in different ways. However, this does not mean that adding high-fat dairy products to your diet will actively help to protect against type 2 diabetes, and we would not recommend this.

“Consumption of dairy products can form part of a healthy diet, but it’s important to be aware of the amount you consume, as they can be high in calories, which can contribute to becoming overweight, and therefore increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. More research will be needed before we change our advice that the best way to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes is by maintaining a healthy weight through increased physical activity and a balanced diet that is low in salt, saturated fat, and sugar, and rich in fruit and vegetables.”

Article Link

Read about us!

Read about us on American Diabetes Association


The Edmonton Protocol

In the 1970s, islet transplant experiments were conducted with great success in laboratory mice. The excitement that those experiments generated soon turned to frustration, as initial attempts to reproduce that success in humans were largely disappointing. For many years progress was slow, and few transplant recipients were able to stay diabetes-free for more than a few months before the transplanted islet cells failed. But in recent years, scientists have begun to make rapid advances in transplant technology, and some of the most exciting new research comes to us from researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. These scientists have used a new procedure called the Edmonton Protocol to treat patients with type 1 diabetes.

In this procedure, researchers use specialized enzymes to remove islets from the pancreas of a deceased donor. For an average-size person (70 kg), a typical transplant requires about 1 million islets, equal to two donor organs. Because the islets are extremely fragile, transplantation occurs immediately after they are removed.

The transplant itself is easy and takes less than an hour to complete. The surgeon uses ultrasound to guide placement of a small plastic tube (catheter) through the upper abdomen and into the liver. The islets are then injected through the catheter into the liver. The patient will receive a local anesthetic. If a patient cannot tolerate local anesthesia, the surgeon may use general anesthesia and do the transplant through a small incision.

It takes some time for the cells to attach to new blood vessels and begin releasing insulin. The doctor will order many tests to check blood glucose levels after the transplant, and insulin may be needed until control is achieved.

Benefits and Risks

Immunosuppressive or anti-rejection drugs are needed to keep the transplanted islets functioning. Researchers do not fully know what long-term effects these drugs may have. Also, although the early results of the Edmonton Protocol are very encouraging, more research is needed to answer questions about how long the islets will survive and how often the transplantation procedure will be successful.

However, transplanting islet cells has several advantages over transplanting a pancreas. First, unlike the pancreas transplant, an islet transplant is a minor surgical procedure, is less expensive, and is probably safer. Second, scientists may learn how to protect these cells from attack by the immune system. Several methods are already under study. If successful, the person with an islet transplant would not need to take immunosuppressants. Surgery would then be safer and more effective for many people with type 1 diabetes.

There is also continuing research on the transplantation of animal islets. Because the supply of human islets is severely limited, even the most successful method of human islet transplantation could only cure a small fraction of the people with diabetes through existing sources of human islets from donor pancreases. If islets from animal sources (for example, pigs) could be made to work successfully, a cure would be available for everyone. But transplants between species involve a whole new set of problems when it comes to regulating the body’s immune response, so much work will still have to be done to make that a possibility.

Stay up to date on Diabetes research!

Be sure to visit JDRF for updates and view clinical trials within the U.S. here and here via JDRF


Other Current Clinical Trials:

  • The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the NIH, has set up an online list of type 1 diabetes clinical trials that users can use to search by location or by eligibility (such as age).
  • Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet is a group of studies looking at the prevention and early treatment of type 1 diabetes. This site provides information about ongoing and completed TrialNet Studies.TrialNet performs trials for newly diagnosed or at risk individuals for type 1 diabetes.
  • The Immune Tolerance Network (ITN) conducts clinical trials and tolerance assay studies in the following disease areas: Transplantation (Islet, Kidney, Liver), Autoimmune Diseases, and Allergy & Asthma. Information is provided on current clinical trials in new onset type 1 diabetes.
  • ClinicalTrials.gov also lists NIH-sponsored trials that have been scientifically reviewed through NIH mechanisms and approved by government council.
  • Children with Diabetes lists a number of trials actively seeking participants.
  • CenterWatch also includes geographic listings of current trials regarding type 1 diabetes.

Walk to Cure Diabetes


When:Sunday, November 9, 2014
Registration at 9:00 a.m. Walk kicks off at 10:00 a.m.


Bioencapsulation & Porcine Islet Xenotransplantation

The Islets of Langerhans are clusters of hormone-secreting endocrine cells found scattered within the pancreas which play a seminal role in regulating macronutrient metabolism. In Type 1 Diabetes, a condition that affects over 3 million Americans, the body’s immune system attacks and gradually destroys the cells within these islets that secrete the hormone insulin. Since insulin is a hormone that is indispensable in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, without it, most organs in the body rapidly lose their ability to utilize and store energy derived from glucose. This results in elevated levels of glucose  in the blood, termed hyperglycemia, and a loss of glucose in the urine, termed glycosuria. Untreated, type 1 diabetics develop many of the debilitating complications of chronic hyperglycemia and glycosuria such as severe weight loss, ketoacidosis, retinopathy, neuropathy and nephropathy. Unfortunately, insulin administration through the use of insulin pumps or syringes several times a day remains the current standard of care. In addition to being burdensome on the individual, this treatment modality is fraught with possibly fatal complications secondary to hypoglycemia often seen due to incorrect or over-zealous insulin dosing. Such episodes of hypoglycemia may even lead to loss of consciousness, coma or death.

Although human islet allotransplantation, i.e. the transplantation of islets isolated from the pancreas of a deceased donor, has proven to reverse hyperglycemia in type 1 diabetes, fewer than 3000 donors are available annually for this procedure which also entails the administration of dangerous immunosuppressive therapy in order to prevent transplant rejection.

Encapsulation within biocompatible polymers has demonstrated great success in reversing hyperglycemia in several small and large animal studies. The  benefits of encapsulation are manifold, but their greatest advantage lies in their ability to afford protection from the immune system while remaining selectively permeable to nutrients and islet-secreted hormones.

Several bioencapsulation devices are currently being studied for use in islet transplantation. An exhaustive review of current advances in this rapidly evolving field can be found here.