Detergent-Free Decellularization of the Human Pancreas for Soluble Extracellular Matrix (ECM) Production

J Vis Exp. 2020 Sep 4:(163). doi: 10.3791/61663.


Islet transplantation (ITx) has the potential to become the standard of care in beta cell replacement medicine but its results remain inferior to those obtained with whole pancreas transplantation. The protocols currently used for human islet isolation are under scrutiny because they are based on the enzymatic digestion of the organ, whereby the pancreas is demolished, its connections to the body are lost and islets are irreversibly damaged. Islet damage is characterized by critical factors such as the destruction of the extracellular matrix (ECM), which represents the 3D framework of the islet niche and whose loss is incompatible with islet euphysiology. Researchers are proposing the use of ECM-based scaffolds derived from the mammalian pancreas to address this problem and ultimately improve islet viability, function, and lifespan. Currently available methods to obtain such scaffolds are harsh because they are largely detergent based. Thus, we propose a new, detergent-free method that creates less ECM damage and can preserve critical components of pancreatic ECM. The results show that the newly developed decellularization protocol allowed the achievement of complete DNA clearance while the ECM components were retained. The ECM obtained was tested for cytotoxicity and encapsulated with human pancreatic islets which showed a positive cellular behavior with insulin secretion when stimulated with glucose challenge. Collectively, we propose a new method for the decellularization of the human pancreas without the use of conventional ionic and non-ionic chemical detergents. This protocol and the ECM obtained with it could be of use for both in vitro and in vivo applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Extracellular Matrix / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Pancreas / cytology
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Pancreas / ultrastructure*
  • Solubility
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*
  • Tissue Scaffolds / chemistry*