Stereological analyses of the whole human pancreas

Sci Rep. 2016 Sep 23;6:34049. doi: 10.1038/srep34049.


The large size of human tissues requires a practical stereological approach to perform a comprehensive analysis of the whole organ. We have developed a method to quantitatively analyze the whole human pancreas, as one of the challenging organs to study, in which endocrine cells form various sizes of islets that are scattered unevenly throughout the exocrine pancreas. Furthermore, the human pancreas possesses intrinsic characteristics of intra-individual variability, i.e. regional differences in endocrine cell/islet distribution, and marked inter-individual heterogeneity regardless of age, sex and disease conditions including obesity and diabetes. The method is built based on large-scale image capture, computer-assisted unbiased image analysis and quantification, and further mathematical analyses, using widely-used software such as Fiji/ImageJ and MATLAB. The present study includes detailed protocols of every procedure as well as all the custom-written computer scripts, which can be modified according to specific experimental plans and specimens of interest.