Differentiation and migration of neural crest stem cells are stimulated by pancreatic islets

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Neural crest stem cells (NCSCs) migrate during embryonic development towards the endoderm-derived pancreas and the interaction between NCSCs and β-cell progenitors is crucial for their mutual differentiation. In diabetes, loss of β-cells or impaired β-cell function is accompanied by nerve degeneration, which contributes to the progression of the disease. Here we show that adult pancreatic islets markedly promote differentiation of NCSCs towards neuronal phenotype in vitro and in vivo after transplantation and increase their migration towards islets. These findings indicate that pancreatic islets can be used to promote differentiation of NCSCs towards neuronal phenotype and that this in-vitro system may help elucidate interactions between NCSCs and healthy or diseased β-cells.

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