In Vitro Disease Models of the Endocrine Pancreas

Biomedicines. 2021 Oct 8;9(10):1415. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9101415.


The ethical constraints and shortcomings of animal models, combined with the demand to study disease pathogenesis under controlled conditions, are giving rise to a new field at the interface of tissue engineering and pathophysiology, which focuses on the development of in vitro models of disease. In vitro models are defined as synthetic experimental systems that contain living human cells and mimic tissue- and organ-level physiology in vitro by taking advantage of recent advances in tissue engineering and microfabrication. This review provides an overview of in vitro models and focuses specifically on in vitro disease models of the endocrine pancreas and diabetes. First, we briefly review the anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology of the human pancreas, with an emphasis on islets of Langerhans and beta cell dysfunction. We then discuss different types of in vitro models and fundamental elements that should be considered when developing an in vitro disease model. Finally, we review the current state and breakthroughs in the field of pancreatic in vitro models and conclude with some challenges that need to be addressed in the future development of in vitro models.

Keywords: 3D cell culture; acute tissue slices; in vitro disease models; islet of Langerhans; pancreas; scaffolds.

Publication types

  • Review