3D Visualization of the Islets of Langerhans–New Tool Available for Diabetes Research

Umeå University researchers in Sweden 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 a powerful reference resource for diabetes researchers. The Umeå University researchers have published their datasets online on March 10, 2017 in Scientific Data, which is a Nature Research journal for scientifically valuable collections of research data with high reuse potential. The publication is titled “Data from: Spatial and Quantitative Datasets of the Pancreatic Β-Cell Mass Distribution in Lean and Obese Mice.” 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 organized 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 because 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. Dr. 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).
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