Partial Duct Ligation: β-Cell Proliferation and Beyond

  1. Harry Heimberg1
  1. 1Diabetes Research Center, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
  2. 2Vanderbilt University Program in Developmental Biology, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN
  1. Corresponding author: Harry Heimberg, harry.heimberg{at}


Experimentally induced injury is an established strategy for studying mechanisms of tissue remodeling with the final goal of developing new regenerative therapies. Under normal physiological conditions, proliferation and differentiation of progenitor cells, including even canonical stem cell−like activity, can be stimulated in tissues, such as brain and liver, that have a low cellular turnover rate (1,2). The presence of stem/progenitor cells in the pancreas could be relevant to normal homeostatic maintenance of various cell types in this organ, such as endocrine hormone−expressing cells, enzyme-secreting acinar cells, and the less secretory exocrine duct cells. Further, pancreatic stem/progenitor cells may be a possible source for replenishing cells destroyed by autoimmune disease or other stressors. We speculate that proliferative progenitors might be isolated, expanded, and differentiated in vitro to alleviate the donor scarcity in human islet transplantation and may therefore be developed as a therapy for diabetes. However, the existence and exact location of adult stem- or progenitor-like cells that can give rise to functional β-cells is highly controversial. This Perspective focuses on findings from a severe insult model (partial duct ligation [PDL]) with a long history (3). PDL received renewed attention when a 2008 study combined it with genetic reporter strategies now possible in mice to try to identify and isolate cells acting as β-cell progenitors (4). In vivo β-cell neogenesis under PDL was recently substantiated (5,6). Because the outcomes from this technique appear to vary across laboratories, we summarize and discuss some of the reported discrepancies to help identify current limitations and pitfalls of this model as well as opportunities for forward progress.

Injury Models Activate Diverse Processes Leading to New β-Cell Generation in the Mouse Pancreas

The mechanisms leading to replacement of the endogenous β-cell pool have been studied under several cell ablation paradigms to test for the existence and type of cells in the adult mouse pancreas that are …

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