A 3D atlas of the dynamic and regional variation of pancreatic innervation in diabetes

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Science Advances  09 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 41, eaaz9124
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz9124


Understanding the detailed anatomy of the endocrine pancreas, its innervation, and the remodeling that occurs in diabetes can provide new insights into metabolic disease. Using tissue clearing and whole-organ imaging, we identified the 3D associations between islets and innervation. This technique provided detailed quantification of α and β cell volumes and pancreatic nerve fibers, their distribution and heterogeneity in healthy tissue, canonical mouse models of diabetes, and samples from normal and diabetic human pancreata. Innervation was highly enriched in the mouse endocrine pancreas, with regional differences. Islet nerve density was increased in nonobese diabetic mice, in mice treated with streptozotocin, and in pancreata of human donors with type 2 diabetes. Nerve contacts with β cells were preserved in diabetic mice and humans. In summary, our whole-organ assessment allows comprehensive examination of islet characteristics and their innervation and reveals dynamic regulation of islet innervation in diabetes.

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