Use of human islets to understand islet biology and diabetes: progress, challenges and suggestions

Diabetologia. 2019 Feb;62(2):212-222. doi: 10.1007/s00125-018-4772-2. Epub 2018 Dec 14.


Over the last two decades, improved access to human islets and the development of human islet distribution networks have enabled the use of millions of human islets in hundreds of scientific research projects, leading to a dramatic increase in our understanding of human islet biology. Here we discuss recent scientific advances as well as methodological and experimental challenges that impact human islet quality, experimental outcomes and the reporting of human islets used in scientific publications. In a survey of over 200 scientific publications with human islet experimentation, we found that the reporting of critical information was quite variable, sometimes obscure, and often failed to adequately outline the experiments and results using human islets. As the complexity of human islet research grows, we propose that members of the human islet research ecosystem work together to develop procedures and approaches for accessible and transparent collecting and reporting of crucial human islet characteristics and, through this, enhance collaboration, reproducibility and rigour, leading to further advances in our understanding of human islet biology.

Keywords: Diabetes; Human; Insulin; Islets; Pancreas; Reporting; Research; Resource; Review; Rigour; Transparency; Unique identifier.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Secretion / physiology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiopathology*
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation*