Islet Isolation

islet isolation

Islet isolation is the foundation of islet transplantation, and our scientists have literally redefined the process. Today, we are one of the few programs in the world capable of consistently producing high-quality islets -- propelling the University of Minnesota to its position as a world leader in islet transplantation.

The islet isolation and purification process consists of these basic steps:

  1. The donor pancreas is brought to a special laboratory at the University of Minnesota whose purpose is to make biological products.
  2. The pancreas is cut into small pieces and put in a special container with steel marbles. The container is shaken, and enzymes are added to break down the tissue so the islets are freed from the rest of the tissue.
  3. The islet tissue cells are removed, washed, counted and checked to be sure they are not damaged. On average, approximately 500,000 of the 1 million islets in a pancreas can be retrieved. This number of islets can usually maintain normal blood sugar levels. If the number or quality of islets is not satisfactory, the transplant must be cancelled.
  4. If the number or quality of islets is satisfactory, the islets are cultured for two days before transplant.

The Schulze Diabetes Institute has developed a standardized method for objectively assessing the quantity and quality of islet products to ensure their suitability for transplant. We use digital imaging analysis to determine the quantity, purity, integrity, cellular identity, and viability of the islets. Our expertise in this area has led to universal acceptance of objective, standardized methods of assessing islet quantity and quality.

Meet the Expert

dr sutherland

Sutherland, David E, MD, PhD

Dr. Sutherland performed the world's first living-donor partial pancreas transplant in 1979. Still one of the world's leading pancreas transplant surgeons, his specialties include pancreas and kidney transplant, pancreatic surgery and general surgery. Read bio

Featured Video


On the cusp of a cure

The Schulze Diabetes Institute hopes its research will help people with type 1 diabetes achieve insulin independence. A donation from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation is putting researchers closer to this goal.

Watch the video

Contact Us

Leeanne Dongses
Phone: 612-626-5697

Schulze Diabetes Institute
University of Minnesota
420 Delaware Street SE, MMC 195
Minneapolis MN 55455

E. Brian Flanagan, Ph.D.
Scientific Program Director
Office: 612-625-6743