Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Power Coupling

Nerves between pancreatic endocrine cells modulate their function

23 April 2022

Power Coupling

Around one million islets stand between you and dangerously high levels of sugar in your blood. Islets are groups of endocrine cells in your pancreas that release hormones to control your blood sugar levels – if they’re impaired diabetes can develop. Previous models of diabetes have found changes in the structure of nerves that supply islets. Now, using zebrafish genetically engineered so that their islet and nerve cells fluoresce and can be visualised, researchers investigate whether these nerves play a role in controlling islets. 3D reconstructions of fluorescence microscopy images (pictured) revealed islet nerves (green and magenta) in direct contact (magenta) with endocrine cells (grey), specifically beta (left), delta (middle) and alpha cells (right). These endocrine cells are ‘coupled’ to each other by electrical signals, so activity in one triggers activity in its neighbour. The team found suppressing islet nerve activity reduced coupling, highlighting a key role of these nerves in islet function.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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