The Islets of Langerhans reside within the endocrine pancreas as highly vascularised micro-organs that are responsible for the secretion of key hormones, such as insulin and glucagon. Islet function relies on a range of dynamic molecular processes that include calcium (Ca2+) waves, hormone pulses, and complex interactions between islet cell types. Dysfunction of these processes results in poor maintenance of blood glucose homeostasis and is a hallmark of diabetes. Very recently, the development of optogenetic methods that rely on light-sensitive molecular actuators has allowed perturbing islet function with near physiological spatio-temporal acuity. These actuators harness natural photoreceptor proteins and their engineered variants to manipulate mouse and human cells that are not normally light-responsive. Until recently, optogenetics in islet biology has primarily focused on hormone production and secretion; however, studies on further aspects of islet function, including paracrine regulation between islet cell types and dynamics within intracellular signaling pathways are emerging. Here, we discuss the applicability of optogenetics to islets cells and comprehensively review seminal as well as recent work on optogenetic actuators and their effects in islet function and diabetes mellitus (DM).

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