Objectives: The limited availability of transplantable human islets has stimulated the development of methods needed to isolate adult pancreatic stem/progenitor cells capable of self-renewal and endocrine differentiation. The objective of this study was to determine whether modulation of intracellular redox state with N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC) would allow for the propagation of pancreatic stem/progenitor cells from adult human pancreatic tissue. Methods: Cells were propagated from human pancreatic tissue using a serum-free, low-calcium medium supplemented with NAC and tested for their ability to differentiate when cultured under different growth conditions. Results: Human pancreatic cell (HPC) cultures coexpressed α-amylase, albumin, vimentin, and nestin. The HPC cultures, however, did not express other genes associated with differentiated pancreatic exocrine, duct, or endocrine cells. A number of transcription factors involved in endocrine cell development including β 2, Islet-1, Nkx6.1, Pax4, and Pax6 were expressed at variable levels in HPC cultures. In contrast, pancreatic duodenal homeobox factor 1 (Pdx-1) expression was extremely low and at times undetectable. Overexpression of Pdx-1 in HPC cultures stimulated somatostatin, glucagon, and carbonic anhydrase expression but had no effect on insulin gene expression. HPC cultures could form 3-dimensional islet-like cell aggregates, and this was associated with expression of somatostatin and glucagon but not insulin. Cultivation of HPCs in a differentiation medium supplemented with nicotinamide, exendin-4, and/or LY294002, an inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase, stimulated expression of insulin mRNA and protein. Conclusion: These data support the use of intracellular redox modulation for the enrichment of pancreatic stem/progenitor cells capable of self-renewal and endocrine differentiation.
- Endocrine hormones
- Pancreatic stem cells