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Abstract

It is generally accepted that structural and functional quantitative imaging of individual islets would be beneficial to elucidate the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes. We here introduce functional optical coherence imaging (FOCI) for fast, label-free monitoring of beta cell destruction and associated alterations of islet vascularisation. NOD mouse and human islets transplanted into the anterior chamber of the eye (ACE) were imaged with FOCI, in which the optical contrast of FOCI is based on intrinsic variations of the index of refraction resulting in a faster tomographic acquisition. In addition, the phase sensitivity allows simultaneous label-free acquisition of vascularisation. We demonstrate that FOCI allows longitudinal quantification of progressive autoimmune insulitis, including the three-dimensional quantification of beta cell volume, inflammation and vascularisation. The substantially increased backscattering of islets is dominated by the insulin–zinc nanocrystals in the beta cell granules. This translates into a high specificity for the functional beta cell volume of islets. Applying FOCI to a spontaneous mouse model of type 1 diabetes, we quantify the modifications of the pancreatic microvasculature accompanying the progression of diabetes and reveal a strong correlation between increasing insulitis and density of the vascular network of the islet. FOCI provides a novel imaging technique for investigating functional and structural diabetes-induced alterations of the islets. The label-free detection of beta cell volume and infiltration together with vascularisation offers a unique extension to study ACE-transplanted human islets. These results are contributing to a deeper understanding of human islet transplant rejection and label-free in vivo monitoring of drug efficacy.

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