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Benjamin J Lamont and Sofianos Andrikopoulos

Incretin-based therapies appear to offer many advantages over other approaches for treating type 2 diabetes. Some preclinical studies have suggested that chronic activation of glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor (GLP1R) signalling in the pancreas may result in the proliferation of islet β-cells and an increase in β-cell mass. This provided hope that enhancing GLP1 action could potentially alter the natural progression of type 2 diabetes. However, to date, there has been no evidence from clinical trials suggesting that GLP1R agonists or dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4) inhibitors can increase β-cell mass. Nevertheless, while the proliferative capacity of these agents remains controversial, some studies have raised concerns that they could potentially contribute to the development of pancreatitis and hence increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. Currently, there are very limited clinical data to directly assess these potential benefits and risks of incretin-based therapies. However, a review of the preclinical studies indicates that incretin-based therapies probably have only a limited capacity to regenerate pancreatic β-cells, but may be useful for preserving any remaining β-cells in type 2 diabetes. In addition, the majority of preclinical evidence does not support the notion that GLP1R agonists or DPP4 inhibitors cause pancreatitis.