Prospects of Stem Cell Therapy in Diabetes: Introduction to the RDS Special Issue

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The Review of Diabetic Studies,2010,7,2,80-81.
Published:August 2010
Type:Review Article
Author(s) affiliations:

Shimon Efrat

Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978 Israel.


Beta-cell function is lost in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, β-cell loss results from autoimmune destruction, while in type 2 diabetes the exact mechanisms of β-cell functional deterioration remain poorly understood. Stem cells hold a great promise for providing an abundant source of cells for β-cell replacement. The generation of human embryonic stem cell lines, more than a decade ago, raised expectations for an imminent unlimited supply of all cell types needed in regenerative medicine. However, the initial optimism has been replaced by a more cautious view in light of the difficulties involved in realizing this potential. Nevertheless, harnessing the potential of embryonic stem cells for diabetes cell therapy remains a very attractive prospect. In recent years, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, derived from several differentiated tissues, have joined the ranks of pluripotent stem cells. Their relative advantages, and disadvantages, in the generation of various differentiated cell types is a heated topic of debate. Other sources of stem cells, including fetal and adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), are also being intensely investigated for their potential to form insulin-producing cells, or for their indirect use to support tissue regeneration and transplantation. The transdifferentiation potential of several pancreatic cell types, including duct, acinar, and islet α-cells, as well as cells from developmentally-related organs (e.g. liver and intestine), is being explored by several research groups. Read more...