Pregnancy is associated with a compensatory increase in beta cell mass. It is well established that somatolactogenic hormones contribute to the expansion both indirectly by their insulin antagonistic effects and directly by their mitogenic effects on the beta cells via receptors for prolactin and growth hormone expressed in rodent beta cells. However, the beta cell expansion in human pregnancy seems to occur by neogenesis of beta cells from putative progenitor cells rather than by proliferation of existing beta cells. Claes Hellerström has pioneered the research on beta cell growth for decades, but the mechanisms involved are still not clarified. In this review the information obtained in previous studies is recapitulated together with some of the current attempts to resolve the controversy in the field: identification of the putative progenitor cells, identification of the factors involved in the expansion of the beta cell mass in human pregnancy, and the relative roles of endocrine factors and nutrients.
Journal review article
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, 2016, Vol 121, Issue 2, p. 151-154