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Diabetes Technol Ther. 2000 Autumn;2(3):453-60.

Manipulation of pancreatic stem cells for cell replacement therapy.

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  • 1Ontogeny, Inc, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138-1118, USA. kpang@ontogeny.com

Abstract

The demonstration of the existence of tissue-specific adult stem cells has had a great impact on our understanding of stem cell biology and its application in clinical medicine. Their existence has revolutionized the implications for the treatment of many degenerative diseases characterized by either the loss or malfunction of discrete cell types. However, successful exploitation of this opportunity requires that we have sufficient know-how of stem cell manipulation. Because stem cells are the founders of virtually all tissues during embryonic development, we believe that understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of embryogenesis and organogenesis will ultimately serve as a platform to identify factors and conditions that regulate stem cell behavior. Discovery of stem cell regulatory factors will create potential pharmaceutical opportunities for treatment of degenerative diseases, as well as providing critical knowledge of the processes by which stem cells can be expanded in vitro, differentiated, and matured into desired functional cells for implantation into humans. A well-characterized example of this is the hematopoietic system where the discovery of erythropoietin (EPO) and granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), which regulate hematopoietic progenitor cell behavior, have provided significant clinical success in disease treatment as well as providing important insights into hematopoiesis. In contrast, little is known about the identity of pancreatic stem cells, the focus of this review. Recent reports of the potential existence of pancreatic stem cells and their utility in rescuing the diabetic state now raise the same possibilities of generating insulin-producing beta cells as well as other cell types of the pancreatic islet from a stem cell. In this review, we will focus on the potential of these new developments and how our understanding of pancreas development can help design strategies and approaches by which a cell replacement therapy can be implemented for the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes which is manifested by the loss of beta cells in the pancreas.

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