Every islet matters: improving the impact of human islet research

Nat Metab. 2022 Aug;4(8):970-977. doi: 10.1038/s42255-022-00607-8. Epub 2022 Aug 11.


Detailed characterization of human pancreatic islets is key to elucidating the pathophysiology of all forms of diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes. However, access to human pancreatic islets is limited. Pancreatic tissue for islet retrieval can be obtained from brain-dead organ donors or from individuals undergoing pancreatectomy, often referred to as 'living donors'. Different protocols for human islet procurement can substantially impact islet function. This variability, coupled with heterogeneity between individuals and islets, results in analytical challenges to separate genuine disease pathology or differences between human donors from experimental noise. There are currently no international guidelines for human donor phenotyping, islet procurement and functional characterization. This lack of standardization means that substantial investments from multiple international efforts towards improved understanding of diabetes pathology cannot be fully leveraged. In this Perspective, we overview the status of the field of human islet research, highlight the challenges and propose actions that could accelerate research progress and increase understanding of type 2 diabetes to slow its pandemic spreading.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation* / methods
  • Islets of Langerhans*
  • Living Donors
  • Pancreas