Harnessing the Endogenous Plasticity of Pancreatic Islets: A Feasible Regenerative Medicine Therapy for Diabetes?

Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease caused by an absolute or relative deficiency in functional pancreatic β-cells that leads to defective control of blood glucose. Current treatments for diabetes, despite their great beneficial effects on clinical symptoms, are not curative treatments, leading to a chronic dependence on insulin throughout life that does not prevent the secondary complications associated with diabetes. The overwhelming increase in DM incidence has led to a search for novel antidiabetic therapies aiming at the regeneration of the lost functional β-cells to allow the re-establishment of the endogenous glucose homeostasis. Here we review several aspects that must be considered for the development of novel and successful regenerative therapies for diabetes: first, the need to maintain the heterogeneity of islet β-cells with several subpopulations of β-cells characterized by different transcriptomic profiles correlating with differences in functionality and in resistance/behavior under stress conditions; second, the existence of an intrinsic islet plasticity that allows stimulus-mediated transcriptome alterations that trigger the transdifferentiation of islet non-β-cells into β-cells; and finally, the possibility of using agents that promote a fully functional/mature β-cell phenotype to reduce and reverse the process of dedifferentiation of β-cells during diabetes.
DeCS Terms
CIE Terms
HMG20A, LRH-1/NR52A, PAX4, diabetes, redifferentiation, regeneration, single-cell transcriptomics, transdifferentiation, β-cell heterogeneity