The Effect of Recovery Warm-up Time Following Cold Storage on the Dynamic Glucose-stimulated Insulin Secretion of Isolated Human Islets

Cell Transplant. 2020 Jan-Dec;29:963689720908278. doi: 10.1177/0963689720908278.


Standardized islet characterization assays that can provide results in a timely manner are essential for successful islet cell transplantation. A critical component of islet cell quality is β-cell function, and perifusion-based assessments of dynamic glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) are the most informative method to assess this, as they provide the most complex in vitro evaluation of GSIS. However, protocols used vary considerably among centers and investigators as they often use different low- and high-glucose concentrations, exposure-times, flow-rates, oxygen concentrations, islet numbers, analytical methods, measurement units, and instruments, which result in different readouts and make comparisons across platforms difficult. Additionally, the conditions of islet storage and shipment prior to assessment may also affect islet function. Establishing improved standardized protocols for perifusion GSIS assays should be an integral part of the ongoing effort to increase the rigor of human islet studies. Here, we performed detailed evaluation of GSIS of human islets using a fully automated multichannel perifusion instrument following various warm-up recovery times after cold storage that corresponds to current shipping conditions (8°C). We found that recovery times shorter than 18 h (overnight) resulted in impaired insulin secretion. While the effects were relatively moderate on second-phase insulin secretion, first-phase peaks were restored only following 18-h incubation. Hence, the biphasic profile of dynamic GSIS was considerably affected when islets were not allowed to recover for a sufficient time after being maintained in cold. Accordingly, while cold storage might improve islet cell survival during shipment and prolong the length of culture, functional assessments should be performed only after allowing for at least overnight recovery at physiological temperatures.

Keywords: biphasic insulin secretion; glucose-stimulated insulin release; islet assessment; islet culture; islet shipment; perifusion; stimulation index; type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Glucose / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion / physiology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Glucose