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Stem Cells. 2004;22(6):1070-84.

Adult pancreas generates multipotent stem cells and pancreatic and nonpancreatic progeny.

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National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1453, USA.


Strategies designed to produce functional cells from stem cells or from mature cells hold great promise for treatment of different cell-degenerative diseases. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are examples of such diseases. Although different in origin, both involve inadequate cell mass of insulin-producing beta cells, the most abundant cell type of pancreatic islets of Langerhans. Practical realization of such strategies is highly dependent on the elucidation of physiological mechanisms responsible for generation of new beta cells in the pancreas, which at this time are poorly defined. The in vitro differentiation systems allowing generation of new beta cells provide a valuable experimental tool for studying these mechanisms. Few such systems are currently available. In this work, we present an in vitro differentiation system, derived from adult mouse pancreas, capable of generating insulin-producing beta-like cells, which self-organize into islet-like cell clusters (ILCCs) during the course of the culture. Surprisingly, we found that along with the ILCCs, multiple cell types with phenotypic characteristics of embryonic central nervous system and neural crest are also generated. Moreover, several embryonic stem cell-specific genes are induced during the course of these cultures. These results suggest that the adult pancreas may contain cells competent to give rise to new endocrine and neural cells.

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