Beta cell

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A porcine islet of Langerhans. The left image is a brightfield image created using hematoxylin stain; nuclei are dark circles and the acinar pancreatic tissue is darker than the islet tissue. The right image is the same section stained by immunofluorescence against insulin, indicating beta cells.

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Beta cells (beta-cells, β-cells) are a type of cell in the pancreas in areas called the islets of Langerhans. They make up 65-80% of the cells in the islets.


Beta cells make and release insulin, a hormone that controls the level of glucose in the blood. There is a baseline level of insulin maintained by the pancreas, but it can respond quickly to spikes in blood glucose by releasing stored insulin while simultaneously producing more. The response time is fairly quick, taking approximately 10 minutes.

Apart from insulin, beta cells release C-peptide, a byproduct of insulin production, into the bloodstream in equimolar quantities. Measuring the levels of C-peptide can give a practitioner an idea of the viable beta cell mass.[1]

β-cells also produce amylin,[2] also known as IAPP, islet amyloid polypeptide, a protein with unknown function.



Much research is being done in the field of beta-cell physiology and pathology. One major research topic is its effects on diabetes. Many researchers are trying to find ways to use these beta-cells to help control or prevent diabetes. A major topic is the replication of adult beta-cells and the application of these to diabetes. The Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at UCLA[5] is a leading research center in the field, within the Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center[6], directed by Dr. Peter Butler. [7]

A team science effort also exists, known as the Beta Cell Biology Consortium (BCBC).[8] The BCBC is responsible for facilitating interdisciplinary approaches that will advance the understanding of pancreatic islet development and function. The long-term goal of the BCBC is to develop a cell-based therapy for insulin delivery.

See also


  1. Hoogwerf B, Goetz F (1983). "Urinary C-peptide: a simple measure of integrated insulin production with emphasis on the effects of body size, diet, and corticosteroids". J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 56 (1): 60–7. PMID 6336620.
  2. Moore C, Cooper G (1991). "Co-secretion of amylin and insulin from cultured islet beta-cells: modulation by nutrient secretagogues, islet hormones and hypoglycemic agents". Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 179 (1): 1–9. PMID 1679326.
  3. "U.K. prospective diabetes study 16. Overview of 6 years' therapy of type II diabetes: a progressive disease. U.K. Prospective Diabetes Study Group". Diabetes. 44 (11): 1249–58. 1995. PMID 7589820.
  4. Rudenski A, Matthews D, Levy J, Turner R (1991). "Understanding "insulin resistance": both glucose resistance and insulin resistance are required to model human diabetes". Metabolism. 40 (9): 908–17. PMID 1895955.

External links

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