Cellular identity is established by genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors that regulate organogenesis and tissue homeostasis. Although some flexibility in fate potential is beneficial to overall organ health, dramatic changes in cellular identity can have disastrous consequences. Emerging data within the field of pancreas biology are revising current beliefs about how cellular identity is shaped by developmental and environmental cues under homeostasis and stress conditions. Here, we discuss the changes occurring in cellular states upon fate modulation and address how our understanding of the nature of this fluidity is shaping therapeutic approaches to pancreatic disorders such as diabetes and cancer.
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