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Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research

On-line version ISSN 1414-431X


MARQUEZ-AGUIRRE, A.L. et al. Development of the endocrine pancreas and novel strategies for β-cell mass restoration and diabetes therapy. Braz J Med Biol Res [online]. 2015, vol.48, n.9, pp.765-776.  Epub July 10, 2015. ISSN 1414-431X.

Diabetes mellitus represents a serious public health problem owing to its global prevalence in the last decade. The causes of this metabolic disease include dysfunction and/or insufficient number of β cells. Existing diabetes mellitus treatments do not reverse or control the disease. Therefore, β-cell mass restoration might be a promising treatment. Several restoration approaches have been developed: inducing the proliferation of remaining insulin-producing cells, de novo islet formation from pancreatic progenitor cells (neogenesis), and converting non-β cells within the pancreas to β cells (transdifferentiation) are the most direct, simple, and least invasive ways to increase β-cell mass. However, their clinical significance is yet to be determined. Hypothetically, β cells or islet transplantation methods might be curative strategies for diabetes mellitus; however, the scarcity of donors limits the clinical application of these approaches. Thus, alternative cell sources for β-cell replacement could include embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, and mesenchymal stem cells. However, most differentiated cells obtained using these techniques are functionally immature and show poor glucose-stimulated insulin secretion compared with native β cells. Currently, their clinical use is still hampered by ethical issues and the risk of tumor development post transplantation. In this review, we briefly summarize the current knowledge of mouse pancreas organogenesis, morphogenesis, and maturation, including the molecular mechanisms involved. We then discuss two possible approaches of β-cell mass restoration for diabetes mellitus therapy: β-cell regeneration and β-cell replacement. We critically analyze each strategy with respect to the accessibility of the cells, potential risk to patients, and possible clinical outcomes.

Keywords : Endocrine pancreas; Diabetes mellitus; β-cell regeneration; β-cell replacement.

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