A Simple High Efficiency Protocol for Pancreatic Islet Isolation from Mice

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Abstract

Pancreatic islets, also called the Islets of Langerhans, are a cluster of endocrine cells which produces hormones for glucose regulation and other important biological functions. The islets primarily consist of five types of hormone-secreting cells: α cells secrete glucagon, β cells secrete insulin, δ cells secrete somatostatin, ε cells secrete ghrelin, and PP cells secrete pancreatic polypeptide. Sixty to 80% of the cells in the islets are β cells, which are the most important cell population to study insulin secretion. Pancreatic islets are a crucial model system to study ex vivo insulin secretion. Acquiring high quality islets is of great importance for diabetes research. Most islet isolation procedures require technically difficult to access site of collagenase injection, harsh and complex digestion procedures, and multiple density gradient purification steps. This paper features a simple high yield mouse islet isolation method with detailed descriptions and realistic demonstrations, showing the following specific steps: 1) injection of collagenase P at the ampulla of Vater, a small area joining the pancreatic duct and the common bile duct, 2) enzymatic digestion and mechanical separation of the exocrine pancreas, and 3) a single gradient purification step. The advantages of this method are the injection of digestive enzyme using the more accessible ampulla of Vater, more complete digestion using combination of enzymatic and mechanical approaches, and a simpler single gradient purification step. This protocol produces approximately 250—350 islets per mouse; and islets are suitable for various ex vivo studies. Possible caveats of this procedure are potentially damaged islets due to enzymatic digestion and/or prolonged gradient incubation, all of which can be largely avoided by careful ad justification of incubation time.