In this issue of Diabetologia, Alavi and Werner ( https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-018-4676-1 ) criticise the attempts to use positron emission tomography (PET) for in vivo imaging of pancreatic beta cells, which they consider as 'futile'. In support of this strong statement, they point out the limitations of PET imaging, which they believe render beta cell mass impossible to estimate using this method. In our view, the Alavi and Werner presentation of the technical limitations of PET imaging does not reflect the current state of the art, which leads them to questionable conclusions towards the feasibility of beta cell imaging using this approach. Here, we put forward arguments in favour of continuing the development of innovative technologies enabling in vivo imaging of pancreatic beta cells and concisely present the current state of the art regarding putative technical limitations of PET imaging. Indeed, far from being a 'futile' effort, we demonstrate that beta cell imaging is now closer than ever to becoming a long-awaited clinical reality.