Cluster-assembled zirconia substrates promote long-term differentiation and functioning of human islets of Langerhans

Alessandra Galli, Elisa Maffioli, Elisa Sogne, Stefania Moretti, Eliana Sara Di Cairano, Armando Negri, Simona Nonnis, Giuseppe Danilo Norata, Fabrizia Bonacina, Francesca Borghi, Alessandro Podestà, Federico Bertuzzi, Paolo Milani, Cristina Lenardi, Gabriella Tedeschi, Carla Perego*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Ex vivo expansion and differentiation of human pancreatic β-cell are enabling steps of paramount importance for accelerating the development of therapies for diabetes. The success of regenerative strategies depends on their ability to reproduce the chemical and biophysical properties of the microenvironment in which β-cells develop, proliferate and function. In this paper we focus on the biophysical properties of the extracellular environment and exploit the cluster-assembled zirconia substrates with tailored roughness to mimic the nanotopography of the extracellular matrix. We demonstrate that β-cells can perceive nanoscale features of the substrate and can convert these stimuli into mechanotransductive processes which promote long-term in vitro human islet culture, thus preserving β-cell differentiation and function. Proteomic and quantitative immunofluorescence analyses demonstrate that the process is driven by nanoscale topography, via remodelling of the actin cytoskeleton and nuclear architecture. These modifications activate a transcriptional program which stimulates an adaptive metabolic glucose response. Engineered cluster-assembled substrates coupled with proteomic approaches may provide a useful strategy for identifying novel molecular targets for treating diabetes mellitus and for enhancing tissue engineering in order to improve the efficacy of islet cell transplantation therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9979
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

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© 2018 The Author(s).

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