Research News

Building a pancreas

In the developing pancreas, seemingly equivalent progenitor cells differentiate into the four types of hormone-positive islet cells: alpha, beta, gamma and delta. Insulin-secreting beta cells are destroyed in type 1 diabetes, and understanding how beta cells develop could lead to new cellular or regenerative therapeutic strategies for diabetes.

Ken Lau, PhD, Guoqiang Gu, PhD, and colleagues have now discovered that epigenetic “marks” on the DNA promoters of specific genes bias certain pancreatic progenitor cells toward maturing into different endocrine cell types.