• β-cell growth;
  • endocrine pancreas;
  • pancreatic progenitors

Abstract:  With the increasing success of islet transplantation, β-cell replacement therapy has had renewed interest. To make such a therapy available to more than a few of the thousands of patients with diabetes, new sources of insulin-producing cells must become readily available. The most promising sources are stem cells, whether embryonic or adult stem cells. Clearly identifiable adult pancreatic stem cells have yet to be characterized. Although considerable evidence suggests their possibility, recent lineage-tracing experiments challenge their existence. Even in light of these lineage-tracing experiments, we suggest that evidence for neogenesis or new islet formation after birth remains strong. Our work has suggested that the pancreatic duct epithelium itself serves as a pool for progenitors for both islet and acinar tissues after birth and into adulthood and, thus, that the duct epithelium can be considered ‘facultative stem cells’. We will develop our case for this hypothesis in this perspective.