A human pancreatic ECM hydrogel optimized for 3-D modeling of the islet microenvironment

Sci Rep. 2022 May 3;12(1):7188. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-11085-z.


Extracellular matrix (ECM) plays a multitude of roles, including supporting cells through structural and biochemical interactions. ECM is damaged in the process of isolating human islets for clinical transplantation and basic research. A platform in which islets can be cultured in contact with natural pancreatic ECM is desirable to better understand and support islet health, and to recapitulate the native islet environment. Our study demonstrates the derivation of a practical and durable hydrogel from decellularized human pancreas that supports human islet survival and function. Islets embedded in this hydrogel show increased glucose- and KCl-stimulated insulin secretion, and improved mitochondrial function compared to islets cultured without pancreatic matrix. In extended culture, hydrogel co-culture significantly reduced levels of apoptosis compared to suspension culture and preserved controlled glucose-responsive function. Isolated islets displayed altered endocrine and non-endocrine cell arrangement compared to in situ islets; hydrogel preserved an islet architecture more similar to that observed in situ. RNA sequencing confirmed that gene expression differences between islets cultured in suspension and hydrogel largely fell within gene ontology terms related to extracellular signaling and adhesion. Natural pancreatic ECM improves the survival and physiology of isolated human islets.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels* / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans* / metabolism
  • Pancreas


  • Hydrogels
  • Glucose