The activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) has been shown to cause ischemia/reperfusion injury of several organs used for transplantation and also to play a significant role in primary islet graft nonfunction. Activation of p38 MAPK may also occur during islet cryopreservation and thawing. In this study, a p38 MAPK inhibitor (p38IH) was applied to human islet cryopreservation to improve islet yield and quality after thawing. Under serum-free conditions, human islets were cryopreserved, thawed and cultured using our standard procedures. Three types of solutions were tested: conventional RPMI1640 medium (RPMI), a newly developed islet cryopreservation solution (ICS), and ICS supplemented with a p38IH, SD-282 (ICS-p38IH). Activation or inhibition of p38 MAPK was demonstrated by the diminished phosphorylation of HSP27 substrate. Islet recovery on day 2 after thawing was highest with ICS-p38IH and islet viability was not significantly different in the three groups. beta Cell numbers and function were the highest in islets cryopreserved with ICS-p38IH. Glucose-stimulated human C-peptide levels were 86% of that of the nonfrozen islets when measured 4 weeks after transplantation into NODscid mice. This improvement may provide an opportunity to establish islet banks and allow the use of cryopreserved islets for clinical transplantation.