Interstitial Cells of Cajal Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • OBJECTIVES: Ramon y Cajal discovered interstitial cells in the pancreas associated with intrinsic nerves. It was our aim to provide evidence for or against the hypothesis that the pancreatic duct harbors interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs) that may function as pacemakers for duct motility. METHODS: We used immunohistochemistry using c-Kit as the ICC marker and protein gene product 9.5 for nerves. Electron microscopy further characterized the cells and their interrelationships. RESULTS: c-Kit-positive cells were associated with smooth muscle cells and nerve fibers of the duct wall and were rich in mitochondria, rough endoplasmic reticulum, and intermediate filaments; they possessed occasional caveolae and had a discontinuous basal lamina. They were connected by small gap junctions to each other and to smooth muscle cells. c-Kit-positive cells around large blood vessels were similar. c-Kit-positive cells within acini were similar in structure but were not associated with smooth muscle cells. CONCLUSIONS: The c-Kit-positive cells around the main duct were identified as ICCs and have the morphological criteria to likely function as pacemaker cells for the previously observed spontaneous rhythmic pancreatic duct contractions. Interstitial cells of Cajal around the large blood vessels likely affect vessel wall rhythmicity.

publication date

  • January 2011