Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Increasingly Nervous

Close-up look at the nervous control of the insulin producing pancreatic islets in diabetes

03 November 2020

Increasingly Nervous

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas’ islets of Langerhans, leading to high blood glucose. Yet islet cells don’t exist in isolation: they interact with other cell types and receive input from neurons, all of which can affect their behaviour. To explore the role of the pancreatic environment in diabetes, scientists need to see inside the whole organ. Tissue clearing, a technique using solvents to make whole tissues transparent, enabled researchers to examine beta cells (labelled by insulin, in green) and neurons (in magenta) throughout the pancreas. Compared to healthy tissue (left), diabetic mice (right) suffer a dramatic decrease in the number of islets and size of beta cells, but the remaining islets are more densely innervated. Altered neural connections are just one feature highlighted by this new way of mapping the pancreas, which could help us to better understand diabetes.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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