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Nat Biotechnol. 2005 Jul;23(7):857-61.

New sources of pancreatic beta-cells.

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  • 1Section of Islet Transplantation and Cell Biology, Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, One Joslin Place, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA. susan.bonner-weir@joslin.harvard.edu


Two major initiatives are under way to correct the beta-cell deficit of diabetes: one would generate beta-cells ex vivo that are suitable for transplantation, and the second would stimulate regeneration of beta-cells in the pancreas. Studies of ex vivo expansion suggest that beta-cells have a potential for dedifferentiation, expansion, and redifferentiation. Work with mouse and human embryonic stem (ES) cells has not yet produced cells with the phenotype of true beta-cells, but there has been recent progress in directing ES cells to endoderm. Putative islet stem/progenitor cells have been identified in mouse pancreas, and formation of new beta-cells from duct, acinar and liver cells is an active area of investigation. Peptides, including glucagon-like peptide-1/exendin-4 and the combination of epidermal growth factor and gastrin, can stimulate regeneration of beta-cells in vivo. Recent progress in the search for new sources of beta-cells has opened promising new opportunities and spawned clinical trials.

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