Pathways governing development of stem cell-derived pancreatic β cells: Lessons from embryogenesis

Sara Al-Khawaga, Bushra Memon, Alexandra E. Butler, Shahrad Taheri, Abdul B. Abou-Samra, Essam Mohamed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


The loss of functional β cells leads to development of diabetes. Several studies have shown that β cells are specified through several stages of progenitors during pancreas development, each stage defined by the expression of specific transcription factors (TFs). Understanding signalling pathways that control the differentiation and specification processes during embryogenesis will facilitate efforts to obtain functional β cells in vitro. Our current knowledge of the mechanisms involved in pancreatic β cell development and survival under normal or diabetic conditions has come largely from animal studies. However, there are marked differences in islet structure and physiological properties between humans and animals, and not all phenotypes of human diabetes can be recapitulated in animal models. Therefore, human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), including human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and human induced PSCs (hiPSCs) offer a great opportunity for increasing our understanding of the pathways regulating human pancreatic β-cell development and survival. Furthermore, hPSCs provide a renewable source of functional pancreatic β cells for cell replacement therapy as well as disease modelling. Herein, we discuss the signalling pathways involved in the development of pancreatic β cells during embryogenesis. Additionally, we describe how these pathways are manipulated in vitro to differentiate hPSCs into functional β cells. Finally, we highlight the progress that has been made for the applications of those cells in treating and modelling diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Reviews
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2017



  • Development
  • Genes
  • HESCs
  • HiPSCs
  • Insulin-secreting cells
  • Pancreatic precursors
  • Transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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