Transplantation of human pancreatic islets to diabetic patients may require that donor islets be kept viable in vitro for extended time periods before transfer to the recipient. We have maintained isolated pancreatic islets obtained from the human cadaveric pancreas in tissue culture for 1-3 wk, after which we studied the structure and function of the islets. Electron micrographs of the cultured islets showed a satisfactory preservation of both beta-cells and alpha 2-cells. After culture for 1 wk, the islet oxygen uptake proceeded at a constant rate at a low glucose concentration (3.3 mM) and was significantly enhanced by raising the glucose concentration to 16.7 mM. Likewise, after culture for 1 wk, the islets responded with an increased insulin release when exposed to 16.7 mM glucose with or without added theophylline (10 mM). Islets cultured for 1-3 wk were able to incorporate [3H]leucine into proinsulin, as judged by gel filtration of acid-alcohol extracts. Glucagon release from the cultured islets was reduced significantly by 16.7 mM glucose alone, but stimulated by glucose (16.7 mM) plus theophylline (10 MM). It is concluded that viable pancreatic islets can be isolated from the pancreas of adult human donors and maintained in tissue culture for at least 1 wk without loss of the specific functions of the alpha 2- and beta-cells. It remains to be established whether such islets will survive and remain functionally competent after transplantation to human recipients.