Engineering pancreatic islets

Pflugers Arch. 2000 May;440(1):1-18. doi: 10.1007/s004240000251.


Pancreatic islets are neuroendocrine organs that control blood glucose homeostasis. The precise interplay of a heterogeneous group of cell populations (beta, alpha, delta and PP cells) results in the fine-tuned release of counterbalanced hormones (insulin, glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptide respectively). Under the premises of detailed knowledge of the physiological basis underlying this behaviour, two lines of investigation might be inferred: generating computational and operational models to explain and predict this behaviour and engineering islet cells to reconstruct pancreatic endocrine function. Whilst the former is being fuelled by new computational strategies, giving biophysicists the possibility of modelling a system in which new "emergent" properties appear, the latter is benefiting from the useful tools and strategic knowledge achieved by molecular, cell and developmental biologists. This includes using tumour cell lines, engineering islet cell precursors, knowledge of the mechanisms of differentiation, regeneration and growth and, finally, therapeutic cloning of human tissues. Gaining deep physiological understanding of the basis governing these processes is instrumental for engineering new pancreatic islets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • Clone Cells / physiology
  • Clone Cells / transplantation
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / biosynthesis
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology
  • Islets of Langerhans / growth & development
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation*
  • Neurosecretory Systems / cytology
  • Neurosecretory Systems / metabolism
  • Pancreas / cytology
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Insulin
  • Glucose