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Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(4):909-13. Epub 2006 Jun 9.

Stem cell sources for clinical islet transplantation in type 1 diabetes: embryonic and adult stem cells.

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Clinical Islet Transplantation Program, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, 1074 Dentistry/Pharmacy Centre, Edmonton, Alta., Canada T6G 2N8.


Lifelong immunosuppressive therapy and inadequate sources of transplantable islets have led the islet transplantation benefits to less than 0.5% of type 1 diabetics. Whereas the potential risk of infection by animal endogenous viruses limits the uses of islet xeno-transplantation, deriving islets from stem cells seems to be able to overcome the current problems of islet shortages and immune compatibility. Both embryonic (derived from the inner cell mass of blastocysts) and adult stem cells (derived from adult tissues) have shown controversial results in secreting insulin in vitro and normalizing hyperglycemia in vivo. ESCs research is thought to have much greater developmental potential than adult stem cells; however it is still in the basic research phase. Existing ESC lines are not believed to be identical or ideal for generating islets or beta-cells and additional ESC lines have to be established. Research with ESCs derived from humans is controversial because it requires the destruction of a human embryo and/or therapeutic cloning, which some believe is a slippery slope to reproductive cloning. On the other hand, adult stem cells are already in some degree specialized, recipients may receive their own stem cells. They are flexible but they have shown mixed degree of availability. Adult stem cells are not pluripotent. They may not exist for all organs. They are difficult to purify and they cannot be maintained well outside the body. In order to draw the future avenues in this field, existent discrepancies between the results need to be clarified. In this study, we will review the different aspects and challenges of using embryonic or adult stem cells in clinical islet transplantation for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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