Human pancreatic capillaries and nerve fibers persist in type 1 diabetes despite beta cell loss

Tiffany M. Richardson, Diane C. Saunders, Rachana Haliyur, Shristi Shrestha, Jean Philippe Cartailler, Rachel B. Reinert, Jenna Petronglo, Rita Bottino, Radhika Aramandla, Amber M. Bradley, Regina Jenkins, Sharon Phillips, Hakmook Kang, Human Pancreas Analysis Program, Alejandro Caicedo, Alvin C. Powers*, Marcela Brissova*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The autonomic nervous system regulates pancreatic function. Islet capillaries are essential for the extension of axonal projections into islets, and both of these structures are important for appropriate islet hormone secretion. Because beta cells provide important paracrine cues for islet glucagon secretion and neurovascular development, we postulated that beta cell loss in type 1 diabetes (T1D) would lead to a decline in intraislet capillaries and reduction of islet innervation, possibly contributing to abnormal glucagon secretion. To define morphological characteristics of capillaries and nerve fibers in islets and acinar tissue compartments, we analyzed neurovascular assembly across the largest cohort of T1D and normal individuals studied thus far. Because innervation has been studied extensively in rodent models of T1D, we also compared the neurovascular architecture between mouse and human pancreas and assembled transcriptomic profiles of molecules guiding islet angiogenesis and neuronal development. We found striking interspecies differences in islet neurovascular assembly but relatively modest differences at transcriptome level, suggesting that posttranscriptional regulation may be involved in this process. To determine whether islet neurovascular arrangement is altered after beta cell loss in T1D, we compared pancreatic tissues from non-diabetic, recent-onset T1D (<10-yr duration), and longstanding T1D (>10-yr duration) donors. Recent-onset T1D showed greater islet and acinar capillary density compared to non-diabetic and longstanding T1D donors. Both recent-onset and longstanding T1D had greater islet nerve fiber density compared to non-diabetic donors. We did not detect changes in sympathetic axons in either T1D cohort. Additionally, nerve fibers overlapped with extracellular matrix (ECM), supporting its role in the formation and function of axonal processes. These results indicate that pancreatic capillaries and nerve fibers persist in T1D despite beta cell loss, suggesting that alpha cell secretory changes may be decoupled from neurovascular components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E251-E267
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • blood vessels
  • exocrine tissue
  • islets
  • nerve fibers
  • type 1 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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