Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Individual islets reconstructed into the 3D pancreas using a novel imaging approach

14 November 2021

Picking Blocks

The problem with peering inside human tissues is not one of looking, but of seeing. Scientists often light up cells in a dish with fluorescent proteins, or make genetically-modified tissues glow in other organisms. But when dealing with whole human organs, options are limited – antibodies designed to highlight particular cells can only penetrate so far, meaning thicker tissues are left in the dark. Here scientists find a solution by cutting a human pancreas into chunks. First, they imbed the organ into jelly then slice it into precise pieces thin enough for antibodies to penetrate. Imaging each block using 3D light-sheet microscopy, they reassemble the whole organ virtually. Here an antibody highlights islets of Langerhans (red), insulin-producing cells in this pancreas from a human donor with type 2 diabetes. Researchers hope the techniques can be easily adapted to other organs, shedding light on our vital anatomy.

Today is World Diabetes Day

Written by John Ankers

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