The pancreatic islet is a highly structured micro-organ that produces insulin in response to rising blood glucose. Here we develop a label-free and automatic imaging approach to visualize the islets in situ in diabetic rodents by the synchrotron radiation X-ray phase-contrast microtomography (SRμCT) at the ID17 station of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. The large-size images (3.2 mm × 15.97 mm) were acquired in the pancreas in STZ-treated mice and diabetic GK rats. Each pancreas was dissected by 3000 reconstructed images. The image datasets were further analysed by a self-developed deep learning method, AA-Net. All islets in the pancreas were segmented and visualized by the three-dimension (3D) reconstruction. After quantifying the volumes of the islets, we found that the number of larger islets (=>1500 μm3) was reduced by 2-fold (wt 1004 ± 94 vs GK 419 ± 122, P < 0.001) in chronically developed diabetic GK rat, while in STZ-treated diabetic mouse the large islets were decreased by half (189 ± 33 vs 90 ± 29, P < 0.001) compared to the untreated mice. Our study provides a label-free tool for detecting and quantifying pancreatic islets in situ. It implies the possibility of monitoring the state of pancreatic islets in vivo diabetes without labelling.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13081
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Feb

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Endocrinology and Diabetes

Free keywords

  • Deep learning
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatic islets
  • Synchrotron radiation
  • X-ray microtomography
  • X-ray phase-contrast


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