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A Journal on Endocrine System Diseases

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Minerva Endocrinologica 2015 December;40(4):267-82


language: English

Islet transplantation versus stem cells for the cell therapy of type 1 diabetes mellitus

Basta G., Montanucci P., Calafiore R.

Section of Cardiovascular, Endocrine and Metabolic Clinical Physiology and Laboratory for Endocrine, Cell Transplants and Biohybrid Organs, Department of Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy


Pancreatic islet cell transplantation has represented the mainstay of cell therapy for the potential, final cure of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1D), along the past two decades. Unfortunately, the restricted availability of cadaveric human donor pancreases coupled with heavy side effects of the recipient’s general immunosuppression, have severely crippled progress of this approach into clinical trials. Only a few excellence centers, worldwide, have thus far accrued still quite marginal clinical success. In an attempt to overcome the limits of islet transplantation new technologies for use of several stem cell lineages are being under investigation, with initial experimental evidence of success. Essentially, the actual lines of research involve attempts to either activate native endogenous stem cells that replace diseased/dead cells, by a cell regeneration process, or condition other stem cells to acquire the functional properties of the targeted cells to be substituted (i.e., beta-cell-like elements associated with insulin secretory competence). A wide array of stem cells may fulfill this task, from embryonic (whose use still faces strong ethical barriers), to adult, to induced pluripotent stem cells. Mesenchymal adult stem cells, retrievable from many different sites, including adipose tissue, bone marrow and post-partum umbilical cord Wharton Jelly, seem to couple plastic to immunoregulatory properties that might greatly help progress for the disease cure.

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Cite this article as

Basta G, Montanucci P, Calafiore R. Islet transplantation versus stem cells for the cell therapy of type 1 diabetes mellitus. Minerva Endocrinol 2015 December;40(4):267-82. 

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