This review demonstrates the unique potential of the spleen as an optimal site for islet transplantation and as a source of mesenchymal stem cells. Islet transplantation is a cellular replacement therapy used to treat severe diabetes mellitus; however, its clinical outcome is currently unsatisfactory. Selection of the most appropriate transplantation site is a major factor affecting the clinical success of this therapy. The spleen has long been studied as a candidate site for islet transplantation. Its advantages include physiological insulin drainage and regulation of immunity, and it has recently also been shown to contribute to the regeneration of transplanted islets. However, the efficacy of transplantation in the spleen is lower than that of intraportal transplantation, which is the current representative method of clinical islet transplantation. Safer and more effective methods of islet transplantation need to be established to allow the spleen to be used for clinical transplantation. The spleen is also of interest as a mesenchymal stem cell reservoir. Splenic mesenchymal stem cells contribute to the repair of damaged tissue, and their infusion may thus be a promising therapy for autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes mellitus and Sjogren’s syndrome.
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