The antidiabetic effect of mesenchymal stem cells is unrelated to their transdifferentiation potential but to their capability to restore Th1/Th2 balance and to modify the pancreatic microenvironment

Stem Cells. 2012 Aug;30(8):1664-74. doi: 10.1002/stem.1132.


Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a chronic metabolic disease that results from cell-mediated autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing cells. In T1DM animal models, it has been shown that the systemic administration of multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells, also referred as to mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), results in the regeneration of pancreatic islets. Mechanisms underlying this effect are still poorly understood. Our aims were to assess whether donor MSCs (a) differentiate into pancreatic β-cells and (b) modify systemic and pancreatic pathophysiologic markers of T1DM. After the intravenous administration of 5 × 10(5) syngeneic MSCs, we observed that mice with T1DM reverted their hyperglycemia and presented no donor-derived insulin-producing cells. In contrast, 7 and 65 days post-transplantation, MSCs were engrafted into secondary lymphoid organs. This correlated with a systemic and local reduction in the abundance of autoaggressive T cells together with an increase in regulatory T cells. Additionally, in the pancreas of mice with T1DM treated with MSCs, we observed a cytokine profile shift from proinflammatory to antinflammatory. MSC transplantation did not reduce pancreatic cell apoptosis but recovered local expression and increased the circulating levels of epidermal growth factor, a pancreatic trophic factor. Therefore, the antidiabetic effect of MSCs intravenously administered is unrelated to their transdifferentiation potential but to their capability to restore the balance between Th1 and Th2 immunological responses along with the modification of the pancreatic microenvironment. Our data should be taken into account when designing clinical trials aimed to evaluate MSC transplantation in patients with T1DM since the presence of endogenous precursors seems to be critical in order to restore glycemic control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Transdifferentiation / physiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / surgery*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / surgery*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / immunology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pancreas / cytology*
  • Pancreas / immunology
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism
  • Th1 Cells / cytology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism
  • Th1-Th2 Balance*
  • Th2 Cells / cytology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / metabolism