Pancreas histology

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The pancreas is a large gland that has both exocrine and endocrine functions.

The majority of the pancreas consists of exocrine glands that produce about 1.5 liters of alkaline digestive enzymes daily, which is secreted directly into the duodenum.

The pancreas, also contains small endocrine cells found in clusters called islets of Langerhans, which typically stain lighter than the pancreatic tissue around it.

The pancreas has a thin collagenous capsule that surrounds the entire pancreas, although only portions of it can be seen in this image.

The capsule also extends into the pancreas as septa, forming lobules.

This section of the pancreas was prepared with Azan stain, which stains collagen blue-ish purple color in order to highlight structures such as the capsule, septa, as well as the connective tissue that surrounds large blood vessels.

Azan stain will also stain the connective tissue surrounding interlobular ducts a similar color as well.

But these ducts can be differentiated from the blood vessels by the presence of digestive enzymes instead of red blood cells within their lumen as well as their distinct epithelium that lines the lumen.

The epithelium consists of simple columnar cells in this image, but some ducts may also consist of stratified columnar or stratified cuboidal epithelium instead.

To the right of the interlobular ducts is an adipocyte.

The adipocytes actually increase in number within the pancreas as individuals age, which is a normal finding that’s caused by pancreatic atrophy over time.

The main functional tissue of the pancreas is called the parenchyma.

If we take a closer look at this slide stained with hematoxylin and eosin, or H&E for short, we can see that the majority of the parenchyma consists of the exocrine portion of the pancreas. The exocrine secretory cells are arranged in groups that resemble a berry surrounding a central lumen.

In latin acini means “berries,” which is why the groups of exocrine cells are called acini. we can see that the secretory cells are pyramid-shaped and their nuclei are found slightly closer to their bases.


The pancreas is an abdominal gland that has both exocrine and endocrine functions. Its exocrine part produces digestive enzymes in the small intestine, while its endocrine part produces hormones such as insulin and glucagon that regulate the body's blood sugar levels. Histologically, three main types of tissue make the pancreas: acinar cells, duct cells, and islet cells. Acinar cells produce enzymes and are secreted into the small intestine to aid digestion.

Duct cells line the pancreatic ducts and secrete a bicarbonate-rich fluid to neutralize stomach acid as it enters the small intestine. Islets of Langerhans produce hormones such as insulin and glucagon. In addition to these three main types of cells, the pancreas also contains supportive stromal cells and blood vessels. The stroma of the pancreas is composed of connective tissue that provides support, blood vessels, and nerve fibers.


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