Using pancreas tissue slices for in situ studies of islet of Langerhans and acinar cell biology

Nat Protoc. 2014 Dec;9(12):2809-22. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2014.195. Epub 2014 Nov 13.


Studies on the cellular function of the pancreas are typically performed in vitro on its isolated functional units, the endocrine islets of Langerhans and the exocrine acini. However, these approaches are hampered by preparation-induced changes of cell physiology and the lack of an intact surrounding. We present here a detailed protocol for the preparation of pancreas tissue slices. This procedure is less damaging to the tissue and faster than alternative approaches, and it enables the in situ study of pancreatic endocrine and exocrine cell physiology in a conserved environment. Pancreas tissue slices facilitate the investigation of cellular mechanisms underlying the function, pathology and interaction of the endocrine and exocrine components of the pancreas. We provide examples for several experimental applications of pancreas tissue slices to study various aspects of pancreas cell biology. Furthermore, we describe the preparation of human and porcine pancreas tissue slices for the validation and translation of research findings obtained in the mouse model. Preparation of pancreas tissue slices according to the protocol described here takes less than 45 min from tissue preparation to receipt of the first slices.

MeSH terms

  • Acinar Cells / cytology*
  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Cytological Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques*
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Microtomy / instrumentation
  • Microtomy / methods
  • Pancreas / cytology*
  • Rats
  • Sus scrofa