In This Issue of Diabetes

Edited by Helaine E. Resnick, PhD, MPH

A Detailed Look at the Early Stages of Embryonic Development of the Human Pancreas

Work by Jennings et al. (p. 3514) presented in this issue of Diabetes helps to address the basic need for data on human pancreatic development during the late embryonic and early fetal stages. Logistical and ethical restrictions associated with obtaining human tissue prior to 7–8 weeks of age have hindered the ability of researchers to determine whether early endocrine development in humans parallels the pathways found in more well-studied mouse models. In this new study, investigators performed immunohistochemical analyses on 31 human embryo and fetal specimens ranging from 47 days postconception to 10 weeks postconception and catalogued the transcription factors expressed at each developmental stage. With a focus on major contrasts between humans and mice, the results showed that while mouse embryos typically express the factor Neurogenin3 (NEUROG3, a hallmark of endocrine commitment) in two phases, NEUROG3 expression in human embryos occurred in a single wave beginning at 8–10 weeks postconception. Along with the increase in NEUROG3 expression, the investigators detected the factor NKX2.2 only at the time of human fetal β-cell differentiation, whereas NKX2.2 is a multipotent pancreatic progenitor in mouse embryos. By identifying combinations of transcription factors marking the stages of pancreatic development and underscoring key differences in humans, these new data help advance the long-term goal of developing novel therapies for diabetes, including the generation of β-cells from pluripotent stem cells. — Wendy Chou, PhD

Jennings et al. Development of the human pancreas from foregut to endocrine commitment. Diabetes 2013;62:3514–3522

Sections through the pancreas of a human embryo at 47 days postconception …

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This Article

  1. doi: 10.2337/db13-ti10 Diabetes vol. 62 no. 10 3305-3306
  1. Free via Open Access: OA