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Transplant Proc. 2005 Jul-Aug;37(6):2662-3.

Transdifferentiation of stem cells in pancreatic cells: state of the art.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Catholic University of Rome, Rome, Italy.


Among the different approaches for diabetes mellitus-pancreas and pancreatic islet transplantation-the use of stem cells represent a renewable alternative source of insulin-producing cells. Stem cells capable of differentiating into beta-like cells can be isolated namely from embryonic cells, bone marrow, and umbilical cord blood, but also from adult organs such as pancreas, liver, and spleen. Several studies have demonstrated that by manipulating culture conditions and using growth and transcription factors of beta-cell lineage (in particular pdx-1 and pax4), embryonic stem cells can differentiate in vitro after formation of embryoid bodies. Bone marrow stem cells can give rise to mesenchymal; endodermal-, and ectodermal-derived cells. In vivo it has been shown that after bone marrow transplantation, using a murine sex-mismatched model, insulin-producing cells expressing the Y chromosome can be detected in the donor pancreas, although not in a significantly number. Cells characterized by a group of markers (Nestin, CK-8, CK-18) and transcription factors (Isl-1, Pdx-1, Pax-4, Ngn-3) important for beta-cell differentiation have been detected in umbilical cord blood. The recent evidence of the possibility to transdifferentiate stem cells to beta cells encourages further studies in animal models to exhaustively determine the differentiation pathways of stem cells to insulin producing cells. These findings might open the way to a successful human investigation.

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