Reprogramming of Pig Dermal Fibroblast into Insulin Secreting Cells by a Brief Exposure to 5-aza-cytidine

G. Pennarossa, S. Maffei, M. Campagnol, M. M. Rahman, T. A L Brevini, F. Gandolfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large animal models provide useful data for pre-clinical research including regenerative medicine. However whereas the derivation of tissue specific stem cells has been successful. pluripotent stem cells so far have been difficult to obtain in these species. A possible alternative could be direct reprogramming but this has only been described in mouse and human. We have recently described an alternative method for reprogramming human somatic cells based on a brief demethylation step immediately followed by an induction protocol. Aim of the present paper was to determine whether this method is applicable to pig in the attempt to achieve cell reprogramming in a large animal model for the first time. Pig dermal fibroblasts were exposed to DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-aza-cytidine (5-aza-CR) for 18 h. After a brief recovery period, fibroblast were subjected to a three-step protocol for the induction of endocrine pancreatic differentiation that was completed after 42 days. During the process pig fibroblast rapidly lost their typical elongated form and gradually became organized in a reticular pattern that evolved into distinct cell aggregates. After a brief expression of some pluripotency genes, cells expression pattern mimicked the transition from primitive endoderm to endocrine pancreas. Not only converted cells expressed insulin but were able to release it in response to a physiological glucose challenge in vitro. Finally they were able to protect recipient mice against streptozotocin-induced diabetes. This work shows, that the conversion of a somatic cell into another, even if belonging to a different germ layer, is possible also in pig.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-43
Number of pages13
JournalStem Cell Reviews and Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Diabetes
  • Epigenetic conversion
  • Pre-clinical model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Cell Biology
  • Medicine(all)


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