Distinct function of the head region of human pancreas in the pathogenesis of diabetes

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The large size of the human pancreas challenges unbiased quantitative analyses that require a practical stereological approach. While many histological studies of the pancreas in the past lacked regional information, we have shown marked heterogeneity within an individual, where islet distribution/density is relatively low in the head and gradually increases through the body toward the tail region by > 2-fold.1, 2Studies focusing on the tail region may be prone to overestimation of β-cell/islet mass when normalizing measured values per person by using pancreas weight or volume. In this article, beyond technical issues, we discuss the pathophysiological importance of studying the head region of the human pancreas regarding its unique characteristics in early development, and the anatomical disposition that may lead to a preferential loss of β-cells in patients with type 2 diabetes and the development of pancreatic cancer.

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