Pancreatic β cells maintain glucose homeostasis through storage and release of insulin.
Diabetic patients exhibit drastic reduction and dysfunction in β cell populations, which cannot be regenerated or restored.
Most of our current understanding of β cell mass regulation comes from experiments done with murine β cells; however, due to the limited availability of primary human β cells in depth analysis on these cells has been a challenge.
In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Philippe Ravassard and colleagues at Hôpital Pitié Salpêtrière generated a conditionally immortalized human β cell line (EndoC-βH2) that can be greatly expanded before inducing excision of the immortalizing transgenes. Following excision, gene expression profiles of EndoC-βH2 cells were similar to isolated human pancreatic islets. Furthermore, excised EndoC-βH2 cells produced and stored insulin, which was released upon glucose stimulation.
As representative human β cells, EndoC-βH2 cell provide a unique tool to further examine human-specific β cell properties and proliferation.