A human islet cell culture system for high-throughput screening

J Biomol Screen. 2012 Apr;17(4):509-18. doi: 10.1177/1087057111430253. Epub 2011 Dec 7.


A small-molecule inducer of beta-cell proliferation in human islets represents a potential regeneration strategy for treating type 1 diabetes. However, the lack of suitable human beta cell lines makes such a discovery a challenge. Here, we adapted an islet cell culture system to high-throughput screening to identify such small molecules. We prepared microtiter plates containing extracellular matrix from a human bladder carcinoma cell line. Dissociated human islets were seeded onto these plates, cultured for up to 7 days, and assessed for proliferation by simultaneous Ki67 and C-peptide immunofluorescence. Importantly, this environment preserved beta-cell physiological function, as measured by glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Adenoviral overexpression of cdk-6 and cyclin D(1), known inducers of human beta cell proliferation, was used as a positive control in our assay. This induction was inhibited by cotreatment with rapamycin, an immunosuppressant often used in islet transplantation. We then performed a pilot screen of 1280 compounds, observing some phenotypic effects on cells. This high-throughput human islet cell culture method can be used to assess various aspects of beta-cell biology on a relatively large number of compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / drug effects
  • Primary Cell Culture / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Small Molecule Libraries


  • Insulin
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Glucose