Introduction: Islet transplantation can treat the most severe cases of type 1 diabetes but it currently requires deceased donor pancreata as an islet source and chronic immunosuppression to prevent rejection and recurrence of autoimmunity. Stem cell-derived insulin-producing cells may address the shortage of organ donors, whereas cell encapsulation may reduce or eliminate the requirement for immunosuppression, minimizing the risks associated with the islet transplantation procedure, and potentially prolonging graft survival.
Areas covered: This review focuses on the design principles for immunoisolation devices and on stem cell differentiation into insulin-producing cell products. The reader will gain understanding of the different types of immunoisolation devices and the key parameters that affect the outcome of the encapsulated graft. Progresses in stem cell differentiation towards mature endocrine islet cells, including the most recent clinical trials and the challenges associated with the application of immunoisolation devices designed for primary islets to stem-cell products, are also discussed.
Expert opinion: Recent advancements in the field of stem cell-derived islet cell products and immunoisolation strategies hold great promise for type 1 diabetes. However, a combination product including both cells and an immunoisolation strategy still needs to be optimized and tested for safety and efficacy.
Keywords: hydrogels; islet transplantation; macroencapsulation; microencapsulation; scaffold; vascular supply.