The Eye as a Transplantation Site to Monitor Pancreatic Islet Cell Plasticity

Erwin Ilegems, Per-Olof Berggren

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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The endocrine cells confined in the islets of Langerhans are responsible for the maintenance of blood glucose homeostasis. In particular, beta cells produce and secrete insulin, an essential hormone regulating glucose uptake and metabolism. An insufficient amount of beta cells or defects in the molecular mechanisms leading to glucose-induced insulin secretion trigger the development of diabetes, a severe disease with epidemic spreading throughout the world. A comprehensive appreciation of the diverse adaptive procedures regulating beta cell mass and function is thus of paramount importance for the understanding of diabetes pathogenesis and for the development of effective therapeutic strategies. While significant findings were obtained by the use of islets isolated from the pancreas, in vitro studies are inherently limited since they lack the many factors influencing pancreatic islet cell function in vivo and do not allow for longitudinal monitoring of islet cell plasticity in the living organism. In this respect a number of imaging methodologies have been developed over the years for the study of islets in situ in the pancreas, a challenging task due to the relatively small size of the islets and their location, scattered throughout the organ. To increase imaging resolution and allow for longitudinal studies in individual islets, another strategy is based on the transplantation of islets into other sites that are more accessible for imaging. In this review we present the anterior chamber of the eye as a transplantation and imaging site for the study of pancreatic islet cell plasticity, and summarize the major research outcomes facilitated by this technological platform.

Original languageEnglish
Article number652853
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 23 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Own work discussed in this review was supported by funding from Karolinska Institutet, the Strategic Research Program in

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Ilegems and Berggren.


  • anterior chamber of the eye
  • beta cell
  • confocal microscopy
  • islet cell plasticity
  • islet imaging
  • islet transplantation
  • novel imaging methods
  • pancreatic islet imaging


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