An improved protocol for optical projection tomography imaging reveals lobular heterogeneities in pancreatic islet and β-cell mass distribution

Islets. 2011 Jul-Aug;3(4):204-8. doi: 10.4161/isl.3.4.16417. Epub 2011 Jul 1.


Optical projection tomography (OPT) imaging is a powerful tool for three-dimensional imaging of gene and protein distribution patterns in biomedical specimens. We have previously demonstrated the possibility, by this technique, to extract information of the spatial and quantitative distribution of the islets of Langerhans in the intact mouse pancreas. In order to further increase the sensitivity of OPT imaging for this type of assessment, we have developed a protocol implementing a computational statistical approach: contrast limited adaptive histogram equalization (CLAHE). We demonstrate that this protocol significantly increases the sensitivity of OPT imaging for islet detection, helps preserve islet morphology and diminish subjectivity in thresholding for tomographic reconstruction. When applied to studies of the pancreas from healthy C57BL/6 mice, our data reveal that, at least in this strain, the pancreas harbors substantially more islets than has previously been reported. Further, we provide evidence that the gastric, duodenal and splenic lobes of the pancreas display dramatic differences in total and relative islet and β-cell mass distribution. This includes a 75% higher islet density in the gastric lobe as compared to the splenic lobe and a higher relative volume of insulin producing cells in the duodenal lobe as compared to the other lobes. Altogether, our data show that CLAHE substantially improves OPT based assessments of the islets of Langerhans and that lobular origin must be taken into careful consideration in quantitative and spatial assessments of the pancreas.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Size
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Female
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / anatomy & histology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Organ Size
  • Pancreas / anatomy & histology
  • Pancreas, Exocrine / anatomy & histology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tomography, Optical / methods*