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Summary: A procedure is described for the isolation and growth in vitro of epithelial cells from the duct network of human pancreas, referred to as DEC. A significant advantage of our procedure over previously published procedures is that it enables the isolation of DEC from small pieces of pancreas tissue (<5 g) and, also, from the digest remaining after the isolation of islet cells from human pancreas, material that would normally be discarded. These were the only reliable sources for pancreas tissue available to us. This procedure shows that some of the techniques that have been successfully used for the isolation of rodent DEC are also valuable in the isolation of human DEC. In particular, the use of cholera toxin to prevent fibroblast growth and contamination obviates the need for the time-consuming procedure of physically removing fibroblasts or the use of expensive fibroblast-specific monoclenal antibodies. The use of sieving to separate the digest immediately achieves a partial purification, which, coupled with that of allowing duct cysts to form, adds to the purity of the final preparation. The ductal system of the intact pancreas tissue and the DEC derived from it expressed cytokeratins 7, 8/18, and 19 and markers for the presence of MUCl, CFTR, and carbonic anhydrase II, which are specific for ductal epithelial cells or for pancreatic ductal functions. This study showed that it is possible to obtain selectively viable DEC from small ducts in otherwise waste pieces of human pancreas. It showed that these cells retained all of the epithelial characteristics that were examined and, in combination with data from an earlier study, showed that the cultured DEC retain the metabolic functions of duct epithelial cells in vivo.

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