The first absolute account of the islet mass distribution in the pancreas of healthy and diabetic individuals

Professor Ulf Ahlgren
Umeå University
1 000 000 SEK - 2019

The possibility to study the absolute distribution and volume of the islets of Langerhans (i.e. all the individual islets volume(s) together with their 3D coordinates) would have widespread implications for diabetes research. Unfortunately, such assessments have been effectively hindered by technological limitations.

We have developed a new antibody labeling protocols allowing us to label cm3-sized blocks of human pancreas. By 3D imaging of such specimen by our unique setup for near infrared – optical projection tomography (NIR-OPT), we plan to visualize and calculate the full islet distribution (i.e. down to the level of every individual islet) throughout the volume of the entire human pancreas. Hence, we have from a technological point of view set the stage to perform the most detailed analyses of islet distribution in the human pancreas ever performed, and we have collected a unique material consisting of intact pancreata from non-diabetic individuals and from those diagnosed with T1D and T2D.

 It is our expectation that these studies will add significantly to our general understanding of the human pancreatic anatomy, and as such may serve as the foundation for a broad variety of research assessments of both pre-clinical and clinical nature. Most importantly however, applying the developed protocols to studies of the entire pancreas of diseased diabetic donors should allow us to obtain a more complete understanding of the changes that occur in the human pancreas during diabetes disease progression 

Professor Ulf Ahlgren