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New sources of pancreatic β-cells

Nature Biotechnologyvolume 23pages857861 (2005) | Download Citation



Two major initiatives are under way to correct the β-cell deficit of diabetes: one would generate β-cells ex vivo that are suitable for transplantation, and the second would stimulate regeneration of β-cells in the pancreas. Studies of ex vivo expansion suggest that β-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 β-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 β-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 β-cells in vivo. Recent progress in the search for new sources of β-cells has opened promising new opportunities and spawned clinical trials.

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The research that provides the background for this review has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Research Foundation, the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation and an important group of private donors.

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  1. Section of Islet Transplantation and Cell Biology, Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, One Joslin Place, Boston, 02215, Massachusetts, USA

    • Susan Bonner-Weir
    •  & Gordon C Weir


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Competing interests

G.C.W. in on an advisory board for Amylin, which makes exendatide (extendin 4), but does not own any Amylin stock.

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Correspondence to Susan Bonner-Weir.

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