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Regen Med. 2006 May;1(3):327-36.

Conversion of embryonic stem cells into pancreatic beta-cell surrogates guided by ontogeny.

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  • 1Diabetes Transplant Unit, Prince of Wales Hospital/University of New South Wales, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia.


Cellular therapies to treat Type 1 diabetes are being devised and the use of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) offers a solution to the issue of supply, because hESCs can be maintained in a pluripotent state indefinitely. Furthermore, hESCs have advantages in terms of their plasticity and reduced immunogenicity. Several strategies that have so far been investigated indicate that hESCs are capable of differentiating into insulin producing beta-cell surrogates. However the efficiency of the differentiation procedures used is generally quite low and the cell populations derived are often highly heterogenous. A strategy that appears to have long term potential is to design differentiation procedures based on the ontogeny of the beta-cell. The focus of this strategy is to replicate signaling processes that are known to be involved in the maturation of a beta-cell. The earliest pancreatic progenitors found in the developing vertebrate fetus are produced via a process known as gastrulation and form part of the definitive endoderm germ layer. hESCs have recently been differentiated into definitive endoderm with high efficiency using a differentiation procedure that mimics the signaling that occurs during gastrulation and the formation of the definitive endoderm. Subsequent events during pancreas development involve a section of the definitive endoderm forming into pancreatic epithelium, which then branches into the pancreatic mesenchyme to form islet clusters of endocrine cells. A proportion of the endocrine precursor cells within islets develop into insulin producing beta-cells. The challenge currently is to design hESC differentiation procedures that mimic the combined events of these stages of beta-cell development.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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