Advances in β cell replacement and regeneration strategies for treating diabetes

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In the past decade, new approaches have been explored that are aimed at restoring functional β cell mass as a treatment strategy for diabetes. The two most intensely pursued strategies are β cell replacement through conversion of other cell types and β cell regeneration by enhancement of β cell replication. The approach closest to clinical implementation is the replacement of β cells with human pluripotent stem cell–derived (hPSC-derived) cells, which are currently under investigation in a clinical trial to assess their safety in humans. In addition, there has been success in reprogramming developmentally related cell types into β cells. Reprogramming approaches could find therapeutic applications by inducing β cell conversion in vivo or by reprogramming cells ex vivo followed by implantation. Finally, recent studies have revealed novel pharmacologic targets for stimulating β cell replication. Manipulating these targets or the pathways they regulate could be a strategy for promoting the expansion of residual β cells in diabetic patients. Here, we provide an overview of progress made toward β cell replacement and regeneration and discuss promises and challenges for clinical implementation of these strategies.

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