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Stem cell nano drug delivery applications to treat diabetes

4 May 2016  •  Author(s): Vishal Shahidadpury, Anjali Hirani and Yashwant Pathak - University of South Florida Health

Stem cell therapy is currently utilised in medicine for its application in tissue repair and regenerative medicine. Unique characteristics of stem cells, such as self-renewal and differentiation, allow its function to be applicable for therapeutic purposes. Nanotechnology and cell microencapsulation have been researched and used as a means to protect cells from innate immune responses while permitting targeted drug delivery, as well as for sustained release of therapeutic agents to specific organs or cells. This review will provide an overview of stem cells, the purpose of nanotechnology and various surface modifications of nanoparticles for enhanced drug delivery, as well as describe how stem cell therapy is used for type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Additionally, a specific application of nanoparticle encapsulation and human embryonic stem cells in achieving glycaemic control, as seen in type 1 diabetes-induced immune-competent mice, will be discussed.

Stem cell nano drug delivery applications to treat diabetes


Stem cells are found in nearly all tissues throughout the body and are characterised by the notable attributes of self-renewal and differentiation capacity1. Self-renewal is defined as the cell’s ability to undergo cycles of mitotic division while keeping the parent cell’s same undifferentiated state2. Stem cells can be derived from embryonic and adult tissues and subsequently categorised into pluripotent and multi-potent cells, respectively. A stem cell’s differentiation potential is closely dependent on its origin3. A pluripotent stem cell is defined by its capacity for indefinite self-renewal1 . Included under the pluripotent cell category are embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

ESCs are derived from the inner cell mass of the pre-implantation blastocyst. They are able to give rise to all cell lineages of the three embryonic germ layers: the endoderm, ectoderm and mesoderm, and are thus considered pluripotent cell types3. iPSCs are obtained by reprogramming mature somatic cells to a pluripotent state via small sets of determined genetic factors, and therefore provide major implications in human genetics and regenerative medicine4.

Multipotent stem cells differ from pluripotent stem cells in that they are more restricted in their capacity for differentiation. Common examples of multipotent stem cells include mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). MSCs are obtained from multiple sources including adipose tissue, bone marrow, umbilical cord tissue and amniotic fluid. They can be isolated from the perivascular compartment of most organs including the liver and are able to differentiate to the mesodermal lineage including bone, cartilage and fat4.

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