The Human Islet: Mini-Organ With Mega-Impact

Endocr Rev. 2021 Sep 28;42(5):605-657. doi: 10.1210/endrev/bnab010.


This review focuses on the human pancreatic islet-including its structure, cell composition, development, function, and dysfunction. After providing a historical timeline of key discoveries about human islets over the past century, we describe new research approaches and technologies that are being used to study human islets and how these are providing insight into human islet physiology and pathophysiology. We also describe changes or adaptations in human islets in response to physiologic challenges such as pregnancy, aging, and insulin resistance and discuss islet changes in human diabetes of many forms. We outline current and future interventions being developed to protect, restore, or replace human islets. The review also highlights unresolved questions about human islets and proposes areas where additional research on human islets is needed.

Keywords: diabetes; glucagon; glucose; insulin; islet; α cell; β cell.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation*
  • Islets of Langerhans*
  • Pregnancy


  • Insulin