The pancreatic image bank should contribute to the advance
The University of Exeter and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have partnered to make high-resolution images of pancreatic tissue available in Pancreatlas, the world’s first online imaging database of human pancreatic tissue created and hosted at VUMC.
The pancreas contains the beta cells which produce insulin which controls blood sugar and is therefore implicated in diseases such as diabetes. The image bank is a valuable asset for researchers because the human pancreas cannot be safely biopsied, and the study of cellular changes that cause type 1 diabetes can only be undertaken on pancreas samples from of individuals with the disease after their death.
The Exeter Archival Diabetes Biobank (EADB) includes 345 images of post-mortem tissue obtained by former Glasgow University professor Alan Foulis in the 1980s. These images represent the largest collection of pancreas samples recovered from patients who died shortly after diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
Foulis bequeathed the tissue collection to the University of Exeter Medical School on his retirement, and the specimens were later digitized by Professor Peter In’t Veld of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The collection’s curators, Exeter professors Noel Morgan, PhD, and Sarah Richardson, PhD, contacted the creators of Pancreatlas to see if the images could be added to the online database and made available to all. in the world. The Exeter teachers then facilitated the transfer of images.
“We are thrilled that this invaluable archive is now available to researchers around the world through the Pancreatlas platform,” said Diane Saunders, PhD, assistant research professor of medicine and co-lead scientist of Pancreatlas. “Not only is this a unique group of samples, but the Exeter Archival Diabetes Biobank has enabled fundamental advances in human pancreas research, including the profiling of insulitis and evidence of Viral involvement in driving beta cell autoimmunity at the islet level. We hope these images will continue to spur scientific discovery as researchers strive to demystify the development of type 1 diabetes.”
The EADB’s 345 images represent 189 different donors aged three months to 17 years. The onset of type 1 diabetes ranges from a few days after death to age 19. Images are tissue sections stained using hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) or immunohistochemistry targeting protein biomarkers of hormones and other signaling proteins.
“Fortunately, most people don’t die until long after their diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, but that means the availability of organs in which the disease process is still active is very rare,” said Morgan, professor of endocrine pharmacology. at University. from Outside. “As a result, very few people in the world who study type 1 diabetes have been able to study the tissues of young children with new-onset type 1 diabetes.
“Making these unique EADB records available through Pancreatlas is a major development as it allows easy access to a global audience and places this collection in the context of other extremely important pancreatic image collections available on the site. The search criteria and annotation systems developed by the Vanderbilt team allow researchers to select the most relevant images for their own studies and view them in high resolution from their own desktop.
In total, Pancreatlas currently hosts 2,180 images, representing several biobanks and research initiatives. The site provides the scientific community with access to annotated images of human pancreatic tissue and associated donor characteristics in hopes of advancing the understanding of diseases such as diabetes, pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis.
The online image database was designed on the principles of automation and scalability as well as ease of use. Images are grouped into curated collections to facilitate exploration of specific topics or disease states, or alternatively, users can search for images of interest across all collections. Filter menus allow users to view and refine images based on experimental information (e.g., tissue treatment, biomarkers being viewed) as well as clinical details (e.g., condition and duration of sickness).
Comprehensive image datasets from across the human lifespan are also included in Pancreatlas to provide context for researchers working, for example, to understand how the development of the pancreas may be linked to the progression of diabetes or the origins of diabetes. pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatlas was developed by Saunders, Marcela Brissova, PhD, Research Professor of Medicine, and Jean-Philippe Cartailler, PhD, at Vanderbilt, with support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Human Pancreas Analysis Program in part of the Human Islet Research Network (DK104211, DK108120, DK112232, DK106755, DK120456), the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center and the Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center (DK20593).
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