Diabetes can be managed by careful monitoring of blood glucose and timely delivery of exogenous insulin. However, even with fastidious compliance, people with diabetes can suffer from numerous complications including atherosclerosis, retinopathy, neuropathy, and kidney disease. This is because delivery of exogenous insulin coupled with glucose monitoring cannot provide the fine level of glucose control normally provided by endogenous b-cells in the context of intact islets. Moreover, a subset of people with diabetes lack awareness of hypoglycemic events; a status that can have grave consequences. Therefore, much effort has been focused on replacing lost or dysfunctional b-cells with cells derived from other sources. The advent of stem cell biology and cellular reprogramming strategies have provided impetus to this work and raised hopes that a b-cell replacement therapy is on the horizon. In this review, we look at two components that will be required for successful b-cell replacement therapy: a reliable and safe source of b-cells and a mechanism by which such cells can be delivered and protected from host immune destruction. Particular attention is paid to insulin-producing cells derived from pluripotent stem cells because this platform addresses the issue of scale, one of the more significant hurdles associated with potential cell-based therapies. We also review methods for encapsulating transplanted cells, a technique that allows grafts to evade immune attack and survive for a long term in the absence of ongoing immunosuppression. In surveying the literature, we conclude that there are still several substantial hurdles that need to be cleared before a stem cell-based b-cell replacement therapy for diabetes becomes a reality.
- Diabetes (all)
- Islet cells