Stem cells to restore insulin production and cure diabetes

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Jul;27(7):583-600. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2017.02.004. Epub 2017 Feb 21.


Background: The advancement of knowledge in the field of regenerative medicine is increasing the therapeutic expectations of patients and clinicians on cell therapy approaches. Within these, stem cell therapies are often evoked as a possible therapeutic option for diabetes, already ongoing or possible in the near future.

Aim: The purpose of this document is to make a point of the situation on existing knowledge and therapies with stem cells to treat patients with diabetes by focusing on some of the aspects that most frequently raise curiosity and discussion in clinical practice and in the interaction with the patient. In fact, at present there are no clinically approved treatments based on the use of stem cells for the treatment of diabetes, but several therapeutic approaches have already been evaluated or are being evaluated in clinical trials.

Data synthesis: It is possible to identify three large potential application fields: 1) the reconstruction of the β cell mass; 2) the immunomodulation in type 1 diabetes (T1D); 3) the treatment of complications. In this study we will limit the discussion to approaches that have the potential for clinical translation, deliberately omitting aspects of basic biology and preclinical data. Also, we intentionally omit the treatment of the complications that will be the subject of a future document. Finally, an overview of the Italian situation regarding the storage of cord blood cells for the therapy of diabetes will be given.

Keywords: Cord blood; Diabetes; Stem cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / pathology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / transplantation*
  • Phenotype
  • Regeneration*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome