Zebrafish Pancreas Development and Regeneration: Fishing for Diabetes Therapies

Curr Top Dev Biol. 2017;124:235-276. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2016.10.005. Epub 2016 Dec 21.


The zebrafish pancreas shares its basic organization and cell types with the mammalian pancreas. In addition, the developmental pathways that lead to the establishment of the pancreatic islets of Langherhans are generally conserved from fish to mammals. Zebrafish provides a powerful tool to probe the mechanisms controlling establishment of the pancreatic endocrine cell types from early embryonic progenitor cells, as well as the regeneration of endocrine cells after damage. This knowledge is, in turn, applicable to refining protocols to generate renewable sources of human pancreatic islet cells that are critical for regulation of blood sugar levels. Here, we review how previous and ongoing studies in zebrafish and beyond are influencing the understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying various forms of diabetes and efforts to develop cell-based approaches to cure this increasingly widespread disease.

Keywords: Beta cell; Diabetes; Pancreas; Regeneration; Zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / transplantation
  • Pancreas / cytology
  • Pancreas / embryology*
  • Regeneration*
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / genetics