Diabetics have few practical therapeutic options. Daily insulin injections, while life-saving, are not without problems. Millions could benefit from islet cell transplantation, but only a few thousand healthy pancreases (where islet cells are located) become available each year. The solution to this dilemma has been clear for some time: the creation of new, healthy beta cells. Researchers want to cultivate beta cells, the insulin-producing cell found in the Islet of Langerhans, that would grow like fury and produce insulin in response to glucose. While some researchers have created long-lived cell lines from beta cells1 and others have engineered non-beta cells to make insulin,2 no one has completed the whole package-no infinitely expandable, transplantable glucose-responsive cell exists.

Researchers are looking for the right stem cell and the right conditions to grow it to the right differentiation stage. Here, adult stem cells share the limelight with embryonic stem cells (ESCs),...

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