Evidence for a Neogenic Niche at the Periphery of Pancreatic Islets

Bioessays 40 (11):1800119 (2018)


We recently discovered a novel subset of beta cells that resemble immature beta cells during pancreas development. We named these “virgin” beta cells as they do not stem from existing mature beta cells. Virgin beta cells are found exclusively at the islet periphery in areas that we therefore designated as the “neogenic niche.” As beta cells are our only source of insulin, their loss leads to diabetes. Islets also contain glucagon‐producing alpha cells and somatostatin‐producing delta cells, that are important for glucose homeostasis and form a mantle surrounding the beta cell core. This 3D architecture is important and determines access to blood flow and innervation. We propose that the distinctive islet architecture may also play an important, but hitherto unappreciated role in generation of new endocrine cells, including beta cells. We discuss several predictions to further test the contribution of the neogenic niche to beta cell regeneration.

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