A 3D culture platform enables development of zinc-binding prodrugs for targeted proliferation of β cells

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Science Advances  18 Nov 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 47, eabc3207
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc3207


Advances in treating β cell loss include islet replacement therapies or increasing cell proliferation rate in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, respectively. We propose developing multiple proliferation-inducing prodrugs that target high concentration of zinc ions in β cells. Unfortunately, typical two-dimensional (2D) cell cultures do not mimic in vivo conditions, displaying a markedly lowered zinc content, while 3D culture systems are laborious and expensive. Therefore, we developed the Disque Platform (DP)—a high-fidelity culture system where stem cell–derived β cells are reaggregated into thin, 3D discs within 2D 96-well plates. We validated the DP against standard 2D and 3D cultures and interrogated our zinc-activated prodrugs, which release their cargo upon zinc chelation—so preferentially in β cells. Through developing a reliable screening platform that bridges the advantages of 2D and 3D culture systems, we identified an effective hit that exhibits 2.4-fold increase in β cell proliferation compared to harmine.

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