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Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells in the Curative Treatment of Diabetes and Potential Impediments Ahead

  • Nidheesh Dadheech
  • A. M. James Shapiro
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series


The successful landmark discovery of mouse and human inducible pluripotential stem cells (iPSC’s) by Takahashi and Yamanaka in 2006 and 2007 has triggered a revolution in the potential generation of self-compatible cells for regenerative medicine, and further opened up a new avenue for “disease in dish” drug screening of self-target cells (Neofytou et al. 2015). The introduction of four ‘Yamanaka’ transcription factors through viral or other transfection of mature cells can induce pluripotency and acquired plasticity. These factors include transduction with octamer-binding transcription factor-4 (Oct-4), nanog homeobox (Nanog), sex-determining region Y-box-2 (Sox-2) and MYC protooncogene (cMyc). Such cells become iPSC’s (Takahashi and Yamanaka 2006). These reprogrammed cells exhibit increased telomerase activity and have a hypomethylated gene promotor region similar to embryonic stem cells (ESC’s). These milestone discoveries have generated immense hope that diseases such as diabetes could be treated and effectively cured by transplantation of self-compatible, personalized autologous stem cell transplantation of β-cells that release physiological insulin under glycemic control (Maehr et al. 2009; Park et al. 2008) (Fig. 1). Diabetes is a profligate disease of disordered glucose metabolism resulting from an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin, the consequences of which lead to immense socio-economic societal burden. While there are many different types of diabetes, the two major types (type 1 diabetes (T1DM) and type 2 diabetes (T2DM) are caused respectively by immune-mediated destruction (T1DM) or malfunctioning (T2DM) insulin-producing β-cells within the endocrine pancreas, the islets of Langerhans (Atkinson et al. 2011; Holman et al. 2015; You and Henneberg 2016). Almost 425 million people are affected by the global burden of diabetes, and this is predicted to increase by 48% (629 million) by 2045 (International Diabetes Federation Atlas 8th Ed 2018). Whole pancreas or islet cell transplantation offer an effective alternative to injected insulin, but both require lifelong potent immunosuppression to control both allo-and autoimmunity. Whole pancreas transplantation involves invasive complex surgery and is associated with greater morbidity and occasional mortality, while islet transplantation involves a minimally invasive intraportal hepatic infusion. Generally, whole pancreas transplantation provides greater metabolic reserve, but this may be matched by cumulative multiple islet infusions to achieve insulin independence. An additional challenge of islet transplantation is progressive loss of complete insulin independence over time, which may be multifactorial, the dominant factor however being ineffective control of autoimmunity. Both whole pancreas and islet transplantation are restricted to patients at risk of severe hypoglycemia that cannot be stabilized by alternate means, or in recipients that are already immunosuppressed in order to sustain a kidney or other solid organ transplant. The risks of chronic immunosuppression and the scarcity of human organ donors mean that both of these transplantation therapies cannot presently be extended to the broader diabetic population (Shapiro 2011; Shapiro et al. 2006). Recent progress in xenotransplantation of multiple knock-out ‘humanized’ pig islets could offer one potential solution, perhaps aided by clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR associated-9 (CRISPR/Cas-9) gene editing approaches, but this remains to be proven in practice. Human stem cell derived new β-cell products could effectively address the global supply challenge for broad application across all forms of diabetes, but recurrent autoimmunity may still remain an insurmountable challenge. Considerable progress in the generation of human stem cell derived SC-β cells from ESC, iPS and other adult cell sources such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) offer huge hope that a personalized, ‘syngeneic’ cell could be transplanted without risk of alloimmunity, thereby securing sufficient supply to meet future global demand (Cito et al. 2018).
Fig. 1

Schematic representation of inducible pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) generation from somatic cells and their application in the patient-specific iPSC-based personalized-medicine based diabetes therapy. Disease-free iPSCs may be potentially generated from healthy individual- or diabetic patient-derived somatic cells using reprogramming with viral, DNA-, RNA-, protein-, miRNA-, or small molecule-mediated reprogramming systems. iPSC’s derived from patients can be further differentiated into insulin-secreting pancreatic for transplantation into patients with diabetes for cell-based therapy


Pluripotential stem cell Diabetes Transplant 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alberta Diabetes InstituteUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Clinical Islet Transplant Program, Alberta Diabetes InstituteUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of SurgeryUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  4. 4.Canadian National Transplant Research ProgramEdmontonCanada

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