Diabetes mellitus is a multifactorial disease affecting increasing numbers of patients worldwide. Progression to insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is characterized by the loss or dysfunction of pancreatic beta-cells, but the pathomechanisms underlying beta-cell failure in type 1 diabetes mellitus and type 2 diabetes mellitus are still poorly defined. Regeneration of beta-cell mass from residual islet cells or replacement by beta-like cells derived from stem cells holds great promise to stop or reverse disease progression. However, the development of new treatment options is hampered by our limited understanding of human pancreas organogenesis due to the restricted access to primary tissues. Therefore, the challenge is to translate results obtained from preclinical model systems to humans, which requires comparative modelling of beta-cell biology in health and disease. Here, we discuss diverse modelling systems across different species that provide spatial and temporal resolution of cellular and molecular mechanisms to understand the evolutionary conserved genotype-phenotype relationship and translate them to humans. In addition, we summarize the latest knowledge on organoids, stem cell differentiation platforms, primary micro-islets and pseudo-islets, bioengineering and microfluidic systems for studying human pancreas development and homeostasis ex vivo. These new modelling systems and platforms have opened novel avenues for exploring the developmental trajectory, physiology, biology and pathology of the human pancreas.