Recent progress in islet isolation from the pancreas of large mammals including man, accentuated the need for the development of precise and reproducible techniques to assess islet yield. In this report both quantitative and qualitative criteria for islet isolation assessment were discussed, the main topics being the determination of number, volume, purity, morphologic integrity and in vitro and in vivo function tests of the final islet preparations. It has been recommended that dithizone should be used as a specific stain for immediate detection of islet tissue making it possible to estimate both the total number of islets (dividing them into classes of 50 mu diameter range increments) and the purity of the final preparation. Appropriate morphological assessment should include confirmation of islet identification, assessment of the morphological integrity and of the purity of the islet preparation. The use of fluorometric inclusion and exclusion dyes together have been suggested as a viability assay to simultaneously quantitate the proportion of cells that are intact or damaged. Perifusion of islets with glucose provides a dynamic profile of glucose-mediated insulin release and of the ability of the cells to down regulate insulin secretion after the glycemic challenge is interrupted. Although perifusion data provides a useful guide to islet viability the quantity and kinetics of insulin release do not necessarily predict islet performance after implantation. Therefore, the ultimate test of islet viability is their function after transplantation into a diabetic recipient. For this reason, in vivo models of transplantation of an aliquot of the final islet preparation into diabetic nude (athymic) rodents have been suggested. We hope that these general guidelines will be of assistance to standardize the assessment of islet isolations, making it possible to better interpret and compare procedures from different centers.