Nonenzymatic isolation and culture of adult islets from atrophic pancreata of copper-deficient rats: A morphologic analysis

Cyprian Weaver, Robert L. Sorenson, Brian Kobienia

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The purpose of this study was to develop a nonenzymatic method of isolating adult islets using atrophied pancreata from copper-deficient rats and to analyze their morphologic characteristics and behavior in culture. This unusual model of isolation was studied because islets remain intact in the course of dietary copper deficiency while the acinar glandular component of the pancreas undergoes selective atrophy and lipomatosis. Small fragments containing islets were readily microdissected from atrophied glands and placed in culture. Within 24 h the fragments congealed into small irregular- to spherical-shaped masses within which the darker profile of islets could be distinguished. Within a period of 3 to 5 d, islet tissue began to bud from the lipocytic mass until by Day 7 spherical aggregates of intact islet tissue separated from the residual fragments. Subsequent to further in vitro treatment, these islets could be maintained as free viable spherical masses if periodically agitated, as attached stationary islets which developed monolayer growth if left undisturbed and as aggregated masses of islet tissue forming megaislets if combined in small groups. Grouped islets treated with actinomycin D and cycloheximide did not exhibit aggregation when incubated with these inhibitors. This suggests that megaislet formation was an active process requiring protein-RNA synthesis rather than passive clumping or aggregation that can accompany metabolically altered or dying islets undergoing cellular shedding and adhesion. Immunohistochemical localization demonstrated that insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and pancreatic polypeptide-immunoreactive cell types were present within the islets derived from this technique. The cellular topography of these islets was not unlike that described by others for islets cultured from enzymatic isolation. This culture model may serve as a resource for mature, viable islets isolated without mechanical or enzymatic disaggregation which can have attenuating effects on islet function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-116
Number of pages9
JournalIn Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1988


  • copper deficiency
  • culture
  • islet isolation
  • islet morphology
  • pancreatic atrophy
  • pancreatic islets


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