Published online Dec 24, 2011. doi: 10.5500/wjt.v1.i1.13
Revised: October 26, 2011
Accepted: December 19, 2011
Published online: December 24, 2011
Diabetes mellitus remains a major burden. More than 200 million people are affected worldwide, which represents 6% of the world’s population. Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disease, which induces the permanent destruction of the β-cells of the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. Although intensive insulin therapy has proven effective to delay and sometimes prevent the progression of complications such as nephropathy, neuropathy or retinopathy, it is difficult to achieve and maintain long term in most subjects. The successes achieved over the last few decades by the transplantation of whole pancreas and isolated islets suggest that diabetes can be cured by the replenishment of deficient β cells. However, islet transplantation efforts have various limitations, including the limited supply of donor pancreata, the paucity of experienced islet isolation teams, side effects of immunosuppressants and poor long term results. The purpose of this article is to review the recent progress in clinical islet transplantation for the treatment of diabetes and to describe the recent progress on pancreatic stem/progenitor cell research, which has opened up several possibilities for the development of new treatments for diabetes.