Discovery Research Programs

Islet/Stem Cell Biology

photo of Michael Wheeler

Program Leader: Dr. Michael Wheeler

The Islet Centre provides a platform for researchers from a range of disciplines to study the role of the pancreatic islet cell as a key cause and target for treatment of type-1 and type-2 diabetes mellitus. The Islet Program builds upon existing infrastructure and CFI funding success of the University Health Network (UHN) and dynamic collaborations amongst UHN scientists, including the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, to accelerate research into the prevention and treatment of this disease. The program plays a prominent role in the ability of UHN researchers to uncover molecular and physiological determinants of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and accelerate the establishment of an unlimited source of insulin-producing pancreatic cells from stem cells that can rapidly be moved to the clinic to treat diabetes. This research program will create a centralized, multi-modal diabetes research facility at the University Health Network (UHN).

(Cell Photos: Larger photo courtesy of G. Keller, C.L. Basford, and M.B. Wheeler, Toronto General Research Institute; smaller photo courtesy of G. Keller and M.C. Nostro, McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University Health Network)

Group Members

Michael Wheeler (Program Leader)
Mark Cattral
Gordon Keller
Gary Lewis
Cristina Nostro
Jonathan Rocheleau
Minna Woo

Recent Program Activities

In 2015, the University Health Network (UHN) received over $3 million of funding to establish a dedicated Human Islet Cell Isolation Facility, which is located on the 4th floor of the Max Bell Research Centre adjacent to the new McEwen Centre Human Development and Disease Facility and Program.The facility which is run by UHN’s Multi-Organ Transplant Department is now operation-ready. It is anticipated that the routine production of high quality research islets will commence in late fall of 2016.

The main goal of the facility will be to provide researchers with a Toronto-based source of healthy human islet cells from a wide range of donors as well as islet cells from donors whom have had a variety of health-related issues including obesity, gastric-bypass, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, for example. Through a partnership with the McEwen Centre’s Human Development and Disease Facility and Toronto General Research Institute, it will also provide access to specialized assays and reagents to assess islet and stem-cell-derived islet cell function to aid researchers with their studies.


McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine