Background: Oxidative stress is a hallmark of many diseases. A growing body of
evidence suggests that hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress plays an important role in pancreatic
β-cells dysfunction and apoptosis, as well as in the development and progression of
diabetic complications. Considering the vulnerability of pancreatic β-cells to oxidative damage,
the induction of endogenous antioxidant enzymes or exogenous antioxidant administration
has been proposed to protect pancreatic β-cells from damage.
Objectives: The present review aims to provide evidence of the effect of oxidative stress and
antioxidant therapies on pancreatic β-cell function, based on in vitro and in vivo studies.
Methods: The MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched to retrieve available data.
Results: Due to poor endogenous antioxidant mechanisms, pancreatic β-cells are extremely
sensitive to Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Many natural extracts have been tested in vitro
in pancreatic β-cell lines in terms of their antioxidant and diabetes mellitus ameliorating effects,
and the majority of them have shown a dose-dependent protective role. On the other
hand, there is relatively limited evidence regarding the in vitro antioxidant effects of antidiabetic
drugs on pancreatic β -cells. Concerning in vivo studies, several natural extracts have
shown beneficial effects in the setting of diabetes by decreasing blood glucose and lipid levels,
increasing insulin sensitivity, and by up-regulating intrinsic antioxidant enzyme activity.
However, there is limited evidence obtained from in vivo studies regarding antidiabetic drugs.
Conclusion: Antioxidants hold promise for developing strategies aimed at the prevention or
treatment of diabetes mellitus associated with pancreatic β-cells dysfunction, as supported by
in vitro and in vivo studies. However, more in vitro studies are required for drugs.