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Diabetologia. 1984 Jun;26(6):393-400.

The life story of the pancreatic B cell.


Most research on the pancreatic B cell has so far focussed on the regulation and molecular biology of insulin biosynthesis and release. The present review draws attention to some additional areas of islet research which have become accessible to investigation by recent methodological progress and which may advance our understanding of the role of the B cell in diabetes. There is now evidence to suggest that B cells arise from a pool of undifferentiated precursor cells in the fetal and newborn pancreas. These cells may contribute to islet growth and, if inappropriately stimulated, also to early islet hyperplasia. In the postnatal state, B-cell function is finely tuned by a complex set of incoming signals, one of which is the nutrient supply provided by the blood. Recent studies indicate that a disproportionately high fraction of pancreatic blood is diverted to the islets and that the islet blood flow is increased by glucose. An acute stimulus to insulin release may thus be accompanied by a process which enhances the distribution of the hormone to the target cells. Long-term adjustments of B-cell function are made by changes in B-cell number and total mass. Adaptive growth responses to an increased insulin demand occur in a number of hereditary diabetic syndromes in animals, but in some of these there is an inherited restriction on the capacity for B-cell proliferation leading to further deterioration of the glucose tolerance. Some evidence suggests that a similar mechanism may operate also in human non-insulin-dependent diabetes.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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