The pancreatic islet of Langerhans is composed of endocrine cells producing and releasing hormones from secretory granules in response to various stimuli for maintenance of blood glucose homeostasis. In order to adapt to a variation in functional demands, these islets are capable of modulating their hormone secretion by increasing the number of endocrine cells as well as the functional response of individual cells. A failure in adaptive mechanisms will lead to inadequate blood glucose regulation and thereby to the development of diabetes. It is therefore necessary to develop tools for the assessment of both pancreatic islet mass and function, with the aim of understanding cellular regulatory mechanisms and factors guiding islet plasticity. Although most of the existing techniques rely on the use of artificial indicators, we present an imaging methodology based on intrinsic optical properties originating from mature insulin secretory granules within endocrine cells that reveals both pancreatic islet mass and function. We demonstrate the advantage of using this imaging strategy by monitoring in vivo scattering signal from pancreatic islets engrafted into the anterior chamber of the mouse eye, and how this versatile and noninvasive methodology permits the characterization of islet morphology and plasticity as well as hormone secretory status.
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