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Genes Dev. 2008 Aug 1;22(15):1998-2021. doi: 10.1101/gad.1670808.

On the origin of the beta cell.

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Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


The major forms of diabetes are characterized by pancreatic islet beta-cell dysfunction and decreased beta-cell numbers, raising hope for cell replacement therapy. Although human islet transplantation is a cell-based therapy under clinical investigation for the treatment of type 1 diabetes, the limited availability of human cadaveric islets for transplantation will preclude its widespread therapeutic application. The result has been an intense focus on the development of alternate sources of beta cells, such as through the guided differentiation of stem or precursor cell populations or the transdifferentiation of more plentiful mature cell populations. Realizing the potential for cell-based therapies, however, requires a thorough understanding of pancreas development and beta-cell formation. Pancreas development is coordinated by a complex interplay of signaling pathways and transcription factors that determine early pancreatic specification as well as the later differentiation of exocrine and endocrine lineages. This review describes the current knowledge of these factors as they relate specifically to the emergence of endocrine beta cells from pancreatic endoderm. Current therapeutic efforts to generate insulin-producing beta-like cells from embryonic stem cells have already capitalized on recent advances in our understanding of the embryonic signals and transcription factors that dictate lineage specification and will most certainly be further enhanced by a continuing emphasis on the identification of novel factors and regulatory relationships.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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