Islet formation in mice and men: lessons for the generation of functional insulin-producing β-cells from human pluripotent stem cells

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2015 Jun:32:171-80. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2015.03.004. Epub 2015 Apr 21.


The Islets of Langerhans are crucial 'micro-organs' embedded in the glandular exocrine pancreas that regulate nutrient metabolism. They not only synthesize, but also secrete endocrine hormones in a modulated fashion in response to physiologic metabolic demand. These highly sophisticated structures with intricate organization of multiple cell types, namely endocrine, vascular, neuronal and mesenchymal cells, have evolved to perform this task to perfection over time. Not surprisingly, islet architecture and function are dissimilar between humans and typically studied model organisms, such as rodents and zebrafish. Further, recent findings also suggest noteworthy differences in human islet development from that in mouse, including delayed appearance and gradual resolution of key differentiation markers, a single-phase of endocrine differentiation, and prenatal association of developing islets with neurovascular milieu. In light of these findings, it is imperative that a systematic study is undertaken to compare islet development between human and mouse. Illuminating inter-species differences in islet development will likely be critical in furthering our pursuit to generate an unlimited supply of truly functional and fully mature β-cells from human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) sources for therapeutic purposes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / embryology*
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological*
  • Organogenesis / physiology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Species Specificity