Nav: Home

3-D visualization of the pancreas -- new tool in diabetes research

March 14, 2017

Umeå researchers have created datasets that map the three-dimensional distribution and volume of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The wealth of visual and quantitative information may serve as powerful reference resource for diabetes researchers. The Umeå University researchers are now publishing their datasets in Scientific Data, which is a Nature Research journal for scientifically valuable collections of research data with high reuse potential.

The hormone insulin -- which is needed to regulate the blood sugar levels of the body -- is produced by the pancreas and plays a key role in the development of diabetes. Insulin-producing cells are organised in the so-called Islets of Langerhans (or pancreatic islets), which are scattered by the thousands in the pancreas. In diabetes research, it is often important to study the quantity and distribution of insulin-producing cells. At present, such studies are generally based upon analyses of chosen cross-sections of pancreatic tissue. These in turn form the basis for attempting to gain an overall picture of the pancreas.

"However, such analyses only provide limited information and are often ridden with relatively large margins of error since the conclusions are based only on two-dimensional data," says Ulf Ahlgren, professor in molecular medicine at Umeå University and in charge of the publications.

Ulf Ahlgren and his research colleagues at the Umeå Centre for Molecular Medicine (UCMM) have previously developed new methods to create three-dimensional images of the insulin cell distribution in intact pancreas based on so-called optical projection tomography (OPT). This technique in many ways bears resemblance to a medical CT scanner, but instead of x-rays it uses regular light.

"We believe that the current publication represents the most comprehensive anatomical and quantitative description of the insulin cell distribution in the pancreas. By making these datasets accessible to other researchers, the data will be available for use as a powerful tool for a great number of diabetes studies. Examples may include planning of stereological analyses, in the development of non-invasive imaging techniques or various types of computational modelling and statistical analyses," says Ulf Ahlgren.

The datasets now published in Scientific Data consist of tomographic and 3D images. The datasets also include information on the individual volume of the Islets of Langerhans and their 3D coordinates and appearance throughout the entire pancreas in both healthy mice and obese mice (ob/ob), at different ages. The obese mice used in the study have a mutation that make them prone to develop obesity and diabetes.

The datasets highlight that islets differ in size and quantity within, and between, the various lobes of the pancreas. According to the research team, this emphasises that the pancreas should not be seen as a homogenous organ when experimental diabetes researchers study the insulin-producing Islets of Langerhans.

Visualising changes in the Islets of Langerhans

The datasets presented in Scientific Data form the basis of another recently published study in Scientific Reports. In that study, the researchers used the 3D data to identify changes in the Islets of Langerhans in the obese (ob/ob) mice. This animal model is often used to study initial metabolic changes that can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. With the help of their refined techniques, the researchers could show that these mice to a great extent develop lesions in the Islets of Langerhans, manifesting as cyst-like structures. The study shows that these lesions are caused by internal bleeding as a consequence of an increased blood flow and instability of the blood vessels.

"Obese (ob/ob) mice have been described in thousands of publications. But the large prevalence of such internal islet lesions have never before been identified and visualised," says Ulf Ahlgren.

The researchers now want to study if similar intra-islet lesions also form in other models of type 2 diabetes and in humans, and if these may contribute to the diabetic phenotype.
-end-
The studies have been funded with support from the Swedish Research Council, the Kempe Foundations, the EU (Marie Curie ITN, "European Training Network for Excellence in Molecular Imaging in Diabetes") and Umeå University.

About the publications:

Scientific Data, dataset: Spatial and quantitative datasets of the pancreatic β-cell mass distribution in lean and obese mice. Authors: Saba Parween, Maria Eriksson, Christoffer Nord, Elena Kostromina and Ulf Ahlgren. DOI: 10.1038/sdata.2017.31.

Scientific Reports, article: Intra-islet lesions and lobular variations in β-cell mass expansion in ob/ob mice revealed by 3D imaging of intact pancreas. Authors: Saba Parween, Elena Kostromina, Christoffer Nord, Maria Eriksson, Per Lindström and Ulf Ahlgren. DOI: 10.1038/srep34885.

Dryad Digital Repository, datasets from: Spatial and quantitative datasets of the pancreatic β-cell mass distribution in lean and obese mice. Authors: Parween S, Eriksson M, Nord C, Kostromina E, Ahlgren U. DOI: 10.5061/dryad.pk8dv.

For more information, please contact:

Ulf Ahlgren, Umeå Centre for Molecular Medicine (UCMM)
Phone: +46 90-785 4434
Email: ulf.ahlgren@umu.se

Umea University

Related Diabetes Articles:

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.
Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.
People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.
Diabetes, but not diabetes drug, linked to poor pregnancy outcomes
New research indicates that pregnant women with pre-gestational diabetes who take metformin are at a higher risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes -- such as major birth defects and pregnancy loss -- than the general population, but their increased risk is not due to metformin but diabetes.
New oral diabetes drug shows promise in phase 3 trial for patients with type 1 diabetes
A University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus study finds sotagliflozin helps control glucose and reduces the need for insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes.
Can continuous glucose monitoring improve diabetes control in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin
Two studies in the Jan. 24/31 issue of JAMA find that use of a sensor implanted under the skin that continuously monitors glucose levels resulted in improved levels in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin multiple times a day, compared to conventional treatment.
Complications of type 2 diabetes affect quality of life, care can lead to diabetes burnout
T2D Lifestyle, a national survey by Health Union of more than 400 individuals experiencing type 2 diabetes (T2D), reveals that patients not only struggle with commonly understood complications, but also numerous lesser known ones that people do not associate with diabetes.
A better way to predict diabetes
An international team of researchers has discovered a simple, accurate new way to predict which women with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes after delivery.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology: Older Americans with diabetes living longer without disability, US study shows
Older Americans with diabetes born in the 1940s are living longer and with less disability performing day to day tasks than those born 10 years earlier, according to new research published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.
More Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Uncharted
There's so much we've yet to explore–from outer space to the deep ocean to our own brains. This hour, Manoush goes on a journey through those uncharted places, led by TED Science Curator David Biello.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#555 Coronavirus
It's everywhere, and it felt disingenuous for us here at Science for the People to avoid it, so here is our episode on Coronavirus. It's ok to give this one a skip if this isn't what you want to listen to right now. Check out the links below for other great podcasts mentioned in the intro. Host Rachelle Saunders gets us up to date on what the Coronavirus is, how it spreads, and what we know and don't know with Dr Jason Kindrachuk, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba. And...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 1: Numbers
In a recent Radiolab group huddle, with coronavirus unraveling around us, the team found themselves grappling with all the numbers connected to COVID-19. Our new found 6 foot bubbles of personal space. Three percent mortality rate (or 1, or 2, or 4). 7,000 cases (now, much much more). So in the wake of that meeting, we reflect on the onslaught of numbers - what they reveal, and what they hide.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.