A change of personality: dedifferentiation and transdifferentiation in β cells


The International Group on Insulin Secretion – IGIS – was established in the late 1990s by a group of academic researchers to boost interest in islet biology and insulin secretion and promote the dissemination of front-line research results to a wider medical public.

As a company with a long-standing interest in promoting research in diabetes, Servier provided IGIS with a long-term grant. Thanks to this support, a series of yearly closed symposia was initiated, each focusing on a central theme related to islet function in relation to type 2 diabetes.

Attended by senior scientists and younger researchers, these symposia were developed into high-level meetings with an emphasis on extensive interaction.
The XVIIth Servier-IGIS Symposium, held on the theme “A change of personality: dedifferentiation & transdifferentiation in β cells”, was another successful meeting where leading experts were able to interact and share their views of the subjects discussed at the meeting.

With a view to sharing the latest developments with scientists and clinicians working in the field of diabetes, the present Digest summarizes a range of topics covered at the Symposium.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes affect ≈8% of the adult population in Europe and in other developed and developing countries, and impose a huge burden on welfare systems, estimated in 2015 at around US $160 billion per annum according to the International Diabetes Federation. In particular, a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of a high-fat high-sucrose diet play a central role in the setting of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, which develops when insulin secretion by the β cell becomes insufficient to overcome insulin resistance, partly due to β-cell apoptosis caused by glucolipotoxicity.1,2 A rapid and complete decrease in insulin secretion, due to β-cell loss through autoimmune disease, underlies the development of type 1 diabetes, which appears mainly during childhood and needs daily insulin injections for life. Due, in large part, to our limited knowledge of β-cell biology in health and disease, there are so far limited therapeutic options to treat diabetes and none to cure or to prevent the disease. However, research and development of regenerative medicine has led to promising outcomes, among them dedifferentiation and transdifferentiation in β cells.