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Integrated pancreatic blood flow: Bi-directional microcirculation between endocrine and exocrine pancreas

posted on 20.03.2020 by Ada Admin, Michael P. Dybala, Andrey Kuznetsov, Maki Motobu, Bryce K. Hendren-Santiago, Louis H. Philipson, Alexander V. Chervonsky, Manami Hara
The pancreatic islet is a highly-vascularized endocrine micro-organ. The unique architecture of rodent islets, a so-called-core-mantle arrangement seen in 2D images, led researchers to seek functional implications for islet hormone secretion. Three models of islet blood flow were previously proposed, all based on the assumption that islet microcirculation occurs in an enclosed structure. Recent electrophysiological and molecular biological studies using isolated islets also presumed uni-directional flow. Using intravital analysis of the islet microcirculation in mice, we find that islet capillaries are continuously integrated to those in the exocrine pancreas, which makes the islet circulation rather open, not self-contained. Similarly in human islets, the capillary structure was integrated with pancreatic microvasculature in its entirety. Thus, islet microcirculation has no relation to islet cytoarchitecture, which explains its well-known variability throughout species. Furthermore, tracking fluorescent-labeled red blood cells at the endocrine-exocrine interface revealed bi-directional blood flow, with similar variability in blood flow speed in both the intra- and extra-islet vasculature. To date, the endocrine and exocrine pancreas have been studied separately by different fields of investigators. We propose that the open circulation model physically links both endocrine and exocrine parts of the pancreas as a single organ through the integrated vascular network.


The study is supported by National Institutes of Health, DK117192, DK020595 to the University of Chicago Diabetes Research and Training Center (Physiology Core), and a gift from the Kovler Family Foundation to M.H.



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