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Age-associated alterations of the hormone-secreting endocrine system cause organ dysfunction and disease states. However, the cell biology of endocrine tissue ageing remains poorly understood. Here, we perform comparative 3D imaging to understand age-related perturbations of the endothelial cell (EC) compartment in endocrine glands. Datasets of a wide range of markers highlight a decline in capillary and artery numbers, but not of perivascular cells in pancreas, testis and thyroid gland, with age in mice and humans. Further, angiogenesis and β-cell expansion in the pancreas are coupled by a distinct age-dependent subset of ECs. While this EC subpopulation supports pancreatic β cells, it declines during ageing concomitant with increased expression of the gap junction protein Gja1. EC-specific ablation of Gja1 restores β-cell expansion in the aged pancreas. These results provide a proof of concept for understanding age-related vascular changes and imply that therapeutic targeting of blood vessels may restore aged endocrine tissue function. This comprehensive data atlas offers over > 1,000 multicolour volumes for exploration and research in endocrinology, ageing, matrix and vascular biology.

Original publication




Journal article


The EMBO journal

Publication Date





Tissue and Tumor Microenvironments Group, The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


Pancreas, Testis, Endocrine System, Endocrine Glands, Thyroid Gland, Blood Vessels, Endothelial Cells, Animals, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Transgenic, Humans, Mice, Neovascularization, Pathologic, Aging, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Female, Male, Young Adult, Imaging, Three-Dimensional, Insulin-Secreting Cells