Week 2: The Reveal… Woahhh
This week’s riddle: What is large, yet never grows; has roots that cannot be seen; is taller than trees?
Hello everyone and welcome to week 2. Last week, I introduced the concept of tissue engineering and the object of my research: vasculature of the Islets of Langerhans. You’re probably wondering what Islets of Langerhans even are. Watch this introductory video for context (you won’t be disappointed and really listen to the lyrics). Well, that was more about the pancreas but we’ll discuss that as well. Let’s get started on another exciting blog.
The pancreas, before the 17th century, was an enigma. Fun fact: Scientists were unsure of the pancreas’ function and conjectured that the pancreas was just a bag of fat. In 1922, researchers, Banting and Best, isolated insulin from the pancreas and demonstrated that it reverses diabetic comas in dogs. Ultimately, the pancreas is composed of two types of tissues: exocrine and endocrine tissue. Exocrine tissue makes up the ~95% of the pancreas that secretes digestive enzymes. Endocrine tissue makes up the rest of the pancreas. Pancreatic endocrine tissue is organized into micro-organs called Islets of Langerhans. As stated in the music video linked above, the Islet is composed of Insulin-secreting β cells, glucagon-secreting α cells, somatostatin-secreting δ cells, and other trace cells. Even though the composition of Islets is known, the structure of Islets remains a mystery with no scientific consensus on a specific organization.
Why Is It Important?
One in ten people in the U.S. has diabetes mellitus, a cureless disease that renders the body unable to regulate blood sugar levels. This disease is caused in large part by the islets of Langerhans failing to work properly. As a result, the best and possibly the most efficient way to cure diabetes is to transplant healthy islets into the patient. Unfortunately, the demand caused by this prevalent disease outpaces the availability of donor islets. While the composition of islets has been identified, the failure to engineer islets has been due to a failure to recreate the correct tissue structure.
Finally… My Project
To sum up, I’ll be analyzing the vascularity of Pancreatic Islets with Olivia Creasey, a Ph.D. candidate in the Gartner lab at UCSF. This research will provide researchers with the information needed to effectively analyze and engineer Islets. Thank you for reading this far!! It really means a lot and I’ll catch you all next week!
Answer: a Mountain