Serum from pregnant donors induces human beta cell proliferation

Islets. 2024 Dec 31;16(1):2334044. doi: 10.1080/19382014.2024.2334044. Epub 2024 Mar 27.


Pancreatic beta cells are among the slowest replicating cells in the human body and have not been observed to increase in number except during the fetal and neonatal period, in cases of obesity, during puberty, as well as during pregnancy. Pregnancy is associated with increased beta cell mass to meet heightened insulin demands. This phenomenon raises the intriguing possibility that factors present in the serum of pregnant individuals may stimulate beta cell proliferation and offer insights into expansion of the beta cell mass for treatment and prevention of diabetes. The primary objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that serum from pregnant donors contains bioactive factors capable of inducing human beta cell proliferation. An immortalized human beta cell line with protracted replication (EndoC-βH1) was cultured in media supplemented with serum from pregnant and non-pregnant female and male donors and assessed for differences in proliferation. This experiment was followed by assessment of proliferation of primary human beta cells. Sera from five out of six pregnant donors induced a significant increase in the proliferation rate of EndoC-βH1 cells. Pooled serum from the cohort of pregnant donors also increased the rate of proliferation in primary human beta cells. This study demonstrates that serum from pregnant donors stimulates human beta cell proliferation. These findings suggest the existence of pregnancy-associated factors that can offer novel avenues for beta cell regeneration and diabetes prevention strategies. Further research is warranted to elucidate the specific factors responsible for this effect.

Keywords: Beta cell; EdU; EndoC-βH1, proliferation; diabetes; human; insulin; islet; pregnancy; primary; serum.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Pregnancy


  • Insulin