DEPARTMENT OF STEM CELLS, ROYAN INSTITUTE, TEHRAN, IRAN
Type 1 diabetes is the result of an autoimmune attack against the insulin-producing β cells of endocrine pancreas. Current therapies for type 1 diabetes, including fastidious blood glucose monitoring and multiple daily insulin injections, are not sufficient to prevent complications of the disease. The only real cure for type 1 diabetes is replacement of the beta cell mass, currently being accomplished through ecto-pancreatic transplantation and islet transplantation. But the chronic shortage of donor organs limits widespread application of these approaches. Understanding the mechanisms of β cell mass expansion by the power of pancreatic developmental knowledge as well as the means to exploit these pathways have enabled researchers to develop new strategies to differentiate, expand and maintain islet cell mass. The characteristics of stem cells in self renewal and differentiation to different cell types 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. In the present review, we discuss pancreas development and some of the recent advances, focusing primarily on the differentiation and genetic manipulation of embryonic and adult stem cells to functional β cells of endocrine pancreas that may form the basis for future treatment.