Diabetes affects an estimated 150 million people worldwide, being the most prevalent metabolic disorder. The pathology is characterized by a selective destruction of pancreatic β-cells and is divided into two main types: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes results from an autoimmune-mediated destruction of insulin-producing β-cells. Type 2 diabetes is a more complex pathology, presenting a progression from insulin resistance in peripheric tissues (muscle and adipose) to a fail use in β-cell function and insulin secretion, culminating in the activation of apoptotic mechanisms and β-cell death. In this context, scientists are proposing novel therapeutic strategies that might allow perfect glycemic control for most patients with diabetes. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent cells derived from the inner cell mass of blastocysts. Adult stem cells are committed cells present in certain niches located in adult tissues and responsible for tissue repair and regeneration. Recently, the development of appropriate culture conditions for the differentiation of these cells into specific fates has permitted their use as potential therapeutic agents for several diseases. The therapeutic potential of transplantation of insulin-secreting pancreatic β-cells has stimulated the interest in using stem cells as a starting material from which to generate insulin secreting cells in vitro. Insulin-producing cells derived from stem cells have been shown to reverse experimentally induced diabetes in animal models. This review will summarize the different approaches that have been used to obtain insulin-producing cells from stem cells by focussing on key points that will allow in vitro differentiation and subsequent transplantation on the future.
Keywords: Embryonic stem cells, Adult stem cells, Cell therapy, β-cell, Insulin, Differentiation
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