For many years, it has been taught in medical textbooks that the endocrine and exocrine parts of the pancreas have separate blood supplies that do not mix. Therefore, they have been studied by different scientific communities, and patients with pancreatic disorders are treated by physicians in different medical disciplines, where endocrine and exocrine function are the focus of endocrinologists and gastroenterologists, respectively. The conventional model that every islet in each pancreatic lobule receives a dedicated arterial blood supply was first proposed in 1932, and it has been inherited to date. Recently, in vivo intravital recording of red blood cell flow in mouse islets as well as in situ structural analysis of 3D pancreatic vasculature from hundreds of islets provided evidence for preferentially integrated pancreatic blood flow in six mammalian species. The majority of islets have no association with the arteriole, and there is bidirectional blood exchange between the two segments. Such vascularization may allow an entire downstream region of islets and acinar cells to be simultaneously exposed to a topologically and temporally specific plasma content, which could underlie an adaptive sensory function as well as common pathogeneses of both portions of the organ in pancreatic diseases, including diabetes.

Article Highlights
  • Historical models of the pancreas blood flow encompassing 150 years are discussed.

  • The integrated pancreatic blood flow between the endocrine and exocrine pancreas was proposed before 1932.

  • The integrated function through local cross talk in a spatiotemporal context may enhance capability of both parts of the pancreas to sense nutrients and metabolites.

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