Emily Wilts

Postdoctoral Fellow


Diabetes is a condition where patients lose functioning insulin-producing islet beta cells and thus with ingestion of glucose, will suffer from hyperglycemia and death if not treated. Over 450 million people are living with diabetes, including ~5% of Canadians overall and an oversized 17.3% of First Nations individuals.  The Edmonton protocol of transplanting islets from donors into immunosuppressed recipients was shown to restore physiological insulin production and effectively reverse the disease. However, human islet donors are rare and islet purification is difficult, such that only ~1% of patients receive this treatment. Therefore, we are working to generate insulin-producing beta cells from readily available human pluripotent stem cells, encapsulating the cells to protect them from immune attack, and implanting the cells to cure diabetes on a large scale. My research focuses on a 4D biomaterial to protect implanted islets from rejection and regulate blood glucose through insulin production. 3D printing of islet cells encapsulated in the biomaterial with additional slow-releasing anti-inflammatory agents (such as aspirin or cannabidiol) enables complex, personalized shapes and a 4D functional material. These approaches will enable the investigation of survival and function of a stem cell-based therapy for diabetes that could allow patients to live diabetes-free.



Research Interests

3D Printing
Polymer synthesis
Polymer characterization

Research Methodology

Polymer synthesis
Dynamic mechanical analysis
Mouse models

Research Centres, Clusters, Institutes

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

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