2017 Volume 64 Issue 5 Pages 477-486
A small number of cells in the adult pancreas are endocrine cells. They are arranged in clusters called islets of Langerhans. The islets make insulin, glucagon, and other endocrine hormones, and release them into the blood circulation. These hormones help control the level of blood glucose. Therefore, a dysfunction of endocrine cells in the pancreas results in impaired glucose homeostasis, or diabetes mellitus. The pancreas is an organ that originates from the evaginations of pancreatic progenitor cells in the epithelium of the foregut endoderm. Pancreas organogenesis and maturation of the islets of Langerhans occurs via a coordinated and complex interplay of transcriptional networks and signaling molecules, which guide a stepwise and repetitive process of the propagation of progenitor cells and their maturation, eventually resulting in a fully functional organ. Increasing our understanding of the extrinsic, as well as intrinsic mechanisms that control these processes should facilitate the efforts to generate surrogate β cells from ES or iPS cells, or to reactivate the function of important cell types within pancreatic islets that are lost in diabetes.