Maintenance of human islets in long term culture

Bruno M. Schmied, Alexis Ulrich, Hosei Matsuzaki, Xianzhong Ding, Camillo Ricordi, Mary Pat Moyer, Surinder K. Batra, Thomas E. Adrian, Parviz M. Pour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


The long-term maintenance of human islets in culture has remained a challenge. Despite advancements in culture techniques, human islets proved to have a short life span in vitro. For the first time, we have succeeded in maintaining human islets in a defined culture medium for more than 12 months. Freshly isolated islets from a 38-year-old donor were cultured in M3:5TM medium and placed on a rocker for 14 days to remove contaminated exocrine and mesenchymal cells which attached to the bottom. The floating islets were purified by daily hand-picking and transfer into fresh medium. After 14 days, purified islets were allowed to attach to the bottom of the flasks and to expand. At various time points, islets were examined immunohistochemically and electron microscopically, and the secretion of islet hormones and their mRNA were determined by radioimmunoassay and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, respectively. Within seven days of culture, ductular and acinar cells developed within the initially normal islets. With time, exocrine cell types expanded while the number of the endocrine cells and their secretion decreased. At day 60, only a few endocrine cells were identifiable, whereas most of the cells appeared undifferentiated and expressed cytokeratin 7 and 19, neuron specific enolase, tomato lectin, phaseolus leucoagglutinin, laminin, and vimentin. After 60 days, the culture consisted entirely of undifferentiated cells which could be maintained in culture for 270 days before they became senescent. This is the first report on the long-term maintenance of human islet cells in culture and allows an insight into the complex process of endocrine cell differentiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-180
Number of pages8
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Culture
  • Differentiation
  • Human
  • Islet
  • Pancreas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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