Out-of-Body Experience: Embryonic Mouse Pancreas Explant

Around 8.4 million people worldwide live with type 1 diabetes in which autoimmune attack of the beta-cells in pancreatic islets causes insulin deficiency. While insulin therapy is sub-optimal, islet transplants have been shown to bring insulin-independence. Due to the shortage of donor tissue however, there is a great need to produce functional, insulin-producing beta-cells from stem cells for transplantation

Body area Pancreas


In the Serup Lab, we aim to understand how cells in the developing pancreas communicate with each other to produce new beta-cells from pancreatic progenitor cells in their natural setting. A better understanding of how this is achieved will hopefully enable the more efficient generation of fully-functional insulin-producing beta-cells from stem cells for use in diabetes therapies

reNEW research

We have shown that activity of the “Notch” signalling pathway is needed for neighbouring progenitor cells to communicate with each other in the developing pancreas to produce correct numbers of beta-cells and other islet cells. We have discovered this signalling to switch on and off (“oscillate”) in progenitors every 1.5 hours by imaging mouse embryonic pancreas explants such as the one shown

Image description

Embryonic mouse pancreas explant grown for 5 days from a “bud” of several hundred progenitor cells which form the future acinar cells (red), duct/islet progenitors (green) and islet cell precursors (blue). Cell membranes are magenta


Dr. Philip A. Seymour, Palle Serup’s Lab, reNEW KU