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Stem cell-derived islet cells for transplantation

Domínguez-Bendala, Juana,b; Inverardi, Lucaa,c; Ricordi, Camilloa,b

Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation: February 2011 - Volume 16 - Issue 1 - p 76–82
doi: 10.1097/MOT.0b013e32834252b5
Stem cell transplantation: Edited by Mary Kearns-Jonker

Purpose of review The promise of islet transplantation for type 1 diabetes has been hampered by the lack of a renewable source of insulin-producing cells. However, steadfast advances in the field have set the stage for stem cell-based approaches to take over in the near future. This review focuses on the most intriguing findings reported in recent years, which include not only progress in adult and embryonic stem cell differentiation, but also the direct reprogramming of nonendocrine tissues into insulin-producing beta cells.

Recent findings In spite of their potential for tumorigenesis, human embryonic stem (hES) cells are poised to be in clinical trials within the next decade. This situation is mainly due to the preclinical success of a differentiation method that recapitulates beta cell development. In contrast, adult stem cells still need one such gold standard of differentiation, and progress is somewhat impeded by the lack of consensus on the best source. A concerted effort is necessary to bring their potential to clinical fruition. In the meantime, reported success in reprogramming might offer a ‘third way’ towards the rescue of pancreatic endocrine function.

Summary Here we discuss the important strategic decisions that need to be made in order to maximize the therapeutic chances of each of the presented approaches.

aDiabetes Research Institute, University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine; Miami, Florida, USA

bDepartment of Surgery, USA

cDepartment of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, USA

Correspondence to Camillo Ricordi, Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami. 1450 NW 10th Ave, Miami, FL 33136, USA Tel: +1 305 2435375; fax: +1 305 2434404; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.