Islets of Langerhans is the area in which the endocrine (i.e., hormone-producing) cells of the pancreas are grouped. Discovered in 1869 by the famous German pathological anatomist Paul Langerhans, the islets of Langerhans constitute approximately 1 to 2% of the mass of the pancreas. There are about one million islets in a healthy adult human pancreas, which are distributed evenly throughout the organ; their combined mass is 1 to 1.5 grams.
Because the beta cells in the islets of Langerhans are destroyed in type I diabetes, clinicians and researchers are actively pursuing islet transplantation technology as a means of curing this disease. Rachel Harris, islet cell recipient, was transplanted at the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami, Florida. In June of 2004, Rachel became the world's longest surviving insulin-free diabetic according to the Miami Herald (published Feb. 13, 2004).
Islet transplantation currently requires potent immunosuppression to prevent host rejection of donor islets. An alternative source of beta cells, such an islets derived from adult stem cells or progenitor cells of a diabetic would eliminate the need for immuosuppressive therapy, and be safer for diabetics..
With the possibility of restoring beta cells, the Chicago Project headed at University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center is investigating ways to regenerate beta cells in vivo. With that being said, beta cells experience apoptosis early and thus are destroyed within a normal-functioning pancreas. The source of this seems to come from the transfer of Pander, a gene that works by attaching to RNA. Pander, when active, causes the beta cells to be blocked at S phase, which induces apoptosis. This loss of beta cell mass eventually leads to a loss of most of the transplanted beta cells.
Different Metabolic Responses in [alpha]-, [beta]-, and [delta]-Cells of the Islet of Langerhans Monitored by Redox Confocal Microscopy
Apr 01, 2006; ABSTRACT Blood glucose homeostasis is mainly achieved by the coordinated function of pancreatic α-, β-, and δ-cells, which...