While it is known that islet cell mass increases considerably after birth, general uncertainty surrounds the source of new beta cells in humans. Chronic pancreatitis (CP) presents a natural injury model for studying postnatal beta-cell regeneration in the human pancreas. In this report, we present histological evidence from human CP pancreases to support the theory that islet neogenesis can occur from ductal precursor cells after birth. Three young patients (ages 16, 12, and 28 years) underwent total pancreatectomy for the management of CP followed by islet isolation and autologous transplantation to prevent or minimize postsurgical diabetes. In all cases, the pancreases had extensive fibrosis, a rock-like consistency, and calcifications in the ducts. During islet isolations, we observed the unusual release of islets with many ductal fragments. In histopathological evaluation of these pancreases, solid cords of cells sometimes formed islet like structures intraductally or extending from ductal structures. Immunofluorescence staining for chromogranin, insulin, proinsulin, PDX1, glucagon, and cytokeratins confirmed these structures to be composed of chromogranin-positive endocrine cells which included both β-cells and α-cells. Labeling for Ki67 to demonstrate mitotic activity showed frequent labeling of duct epithelial cells and of some periductal cells. Using insulin and wide-spectrum cytokeratin double immunofluorescent labeling, we found insulin-positive cells to be present within the ductal lumens, among the cytokeratin-positive ductal epithelium, and extending from the ductal epithelium into surrounding connective tissues, providing evidence for a ductal origin of islet neogenesis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank Josh Wilheim, Muhammad Abdulla, Bob Konz, Kate Mueller, Brian Perrault, Thomas Gilmore, Jeffrey Ansite, and Josh Parker for excellent technical support. This work was supported in part by philanthropic gifts made to the Schulze Diabetes Institute and Schulze Family Foundation grant.
- Beta cell
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Islet neogenesis
- Islet precursor cell
- Islet progenitor cell