Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that affects more than 460 million people worldwide. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is caused by autoimmune destruction of β-cells, whereas type 2 diabetes (T2D) is caused by a hostile metabolic environment that leads to β-cell exhaustion and dysfunction. Currently, first-line medications treat the symptomatic insulin resistance and hyperglycaemia, but do not prevent the progressive decline of β-cell mass and function. Thus, advanced therapies need to be developed that either protect or regenerate endogenous β-cell mass early in disease progression or replace lost β-cells with stem cell-derived β-like cells or engineered islet-like clusters.
In our recent review in Nature Drug Discovery, we discuss the state of the art of stem cell differentiation and islet engineering, reflect on current and future challenges in the area and highlight the potential for cell replacement therapies, disease modelling and drug development using these cells. These efforts in stem cell and regenerative medicine will lay the foundations for future biomedical breakthroughs and potentially curative treatments for diabetes.