Islets of patients with type 2 diabetes display the typical features of an inflammatory process characterized by the presence of cytokines, chemokines, immune cell infiltration, impaired function and tissue destruction with fibrotic areas. Functional studies have shown that targeting inflammation may improve insulin secretion and sensitivity. In particular clinical proof of concept studies using modulators of the interleukin-1β (IL-1β)—nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) pathway demonstrated the role of the innate immune system in type 2 diabetes. This programme has now entered the phase 3 of clinical development. Other targets such as tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) may be equally important but have been neglected based on poorly designed studies. In this article we discuss the mechanisms of islet inflammation in type 2 diabetes and review the opportunity of clinical translation.