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Diabetes Obes Metab. 2016 Sep;18 Suppl 1:144-51. doi: 10.1111/dom.12725.

Making β(-like)-cells from exocrine pancreas.

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Diabetes Research Center, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Ghent University Hospital and Department of Pediatrics and Genetics, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
Departments of Endocrinology, UZ Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.
ASZ Aalst, Aalst, Belgium.
Diabetes Research Center, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.


Creating an abundant source of β(-like)-cells has been a major goal in diabetes research for many decades. The concept of cell plasticity has inspired many strategies towards regenerative medicine, but its successes have been limited until very recently. Today, most cell types in the pancreas are considered candidates for the generation of β(-like)-cells through transdifferentiation. While β(-like)-cells that are in vitro differentiated from human embryonic stem cells are already being grafted in patients, β(-like)-cells generated by transdifferentiation are not yet ready for clinical application. These cells would however offer several advantages over the current β(-like)-cells generated by directed differentiation, especially concerning safety issues. In addition, perfect control of the transdifferentiation efficiency would through targeted drug delivery support a non-invasive cell therapy for diabetes. Lastly, focusing on the exocrine pancreas as prime candidate makes sense in view of their abundance and high plasticity. Keeping these hopeful perspectives in mind, it is worth to continue focused research on the mechanisms that control transdifferentiation from pancreas exocrine to β-cells.


acinar cell; diabetes; duct cell; pancreas; progenitor cell; reprogramming; transdifferentiation; β-cell

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