Human pancreatic afferent and efferent nerves: mapping and 3-D illustration of exocrine, endocrine, and adipose innervation

American Journal of Physiology. Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Hung-Jen ChienShiue-Cheng Tang


The pancreas consists of both the exocrine (acini and ducts) and endocrine (islets) compartments to participate in and regulate the body's digestive and metabolic activities. These activities are subjected to neural modulation, but characterization of the human pancreatic afferent and efferent nerves remains difficult due to the lack of 3-D image data. Here we prepare transparent human donor pancreases for 3-D histology to reveal the pancreatic microstructure, vasculature, and innervation in a global and integrated fashion. The pancreatic neural network consists of the substance P (SP) -positive sensory (afferent) nerves, the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) -positive parasympathetic (efferent) nerves, and the tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) -positive sympathetic (efferent) nerves. The SP+ afferent nerves were found residing along the basal domain of the inter-lobular ducts. The VAChT+ and TH+ efferent nerves were identified at the peri-acinar and perivascular spaces, which follow the blood vessels to the islets. In the intra-pancreatic ganglia, the SP+ (scattered minority, ~7%) and VAChT+ neurons co-localize, suggesting a local afferent-efferent interaction. Compared with the mouse pancreas, the human pancreas differs in:...Continue Reading


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Methods Mentioned

confocal microscopy
feature extraction
fluorescence imaging
light microscopy

Software Mentioned

Zeiss Zen

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