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A Journal on Internal Medicine

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Panminerva Medica 2005 March;47(1):39-51

language: English

From stem cells to insulin-producing cells: towards a bioartificial endocrine pancreas

Roche E., Santana A., Vicente-Salar N., Reig J. A.

Institute of Bioengineering Miguel Hern√°ndez University , Alicante, Spain


The total absence or low production of insulin by β-cells avoids a proper control of glycemia forcing diabetic people to daily insulin injection for survival. Islet transplantation represents a hallmark in the cure of diabetes and has been successfully applied to more than 400 patients, resulting in insulin independency for periods longer than 4 years. However, transplantation trials for diabetes have to face the scarcity of islets from cadaveric donors. Therefore, the finding of renewable sources of cells could circumvent this problem. In this respect, embryonic or adult stem cells are representing an interesting alternative. Stem cells display robust proliferation and the plasticity to differentiate to other cell types, including insulin-containing cells. The current therapeutical use in the future of bioengineered insulin-secreting cells derived from stem cells needs at present to fulfill several criteria. These criteria concern to the type of stem cell to be used as starting biomaterial (embryonic or adult), the in vitro differentiation protocol applied, the functional phenotype reached for the final cell product and the transplantation associated problems (likely immune rejection and tumor formation). This review will try to focus on these different aspects in order to emphasize in the key points to consider for designing unified strategies for diabetes cell therapy.

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