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Sugar Solution
16 March 2018

Sugar Solution

After a meal, insulin floods around the body helping our cells absorb excess sugar. This vital process starts in the pancreas where islets – clusters of endocrine cells – squirt the chemical out into the bloodstream. But how pancreatic cells first bunch together into islets is mysterious – cloudy fats in our organs make such events difficult to watch under a microscope. Peering inside a transparent zebrafish, though, reveals vital clues. As some of the pancreatic cells (red) naturally develop into insulin-producing beta cells (blue), researchers watch what happens next. The islet cells develop finger-like projections that reach out towards nearby neighbours. Later in development these may act as bridges, bringing pancreatic cells together and forming the islets. Further studies may help to replace or repair islets in human patients with type 1 diabetes, where these precious structures are often destroyed by the body’s own immune system.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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