Fetal human pancreata, obtained from legally-induced abortions, were placed in organ culture to study their capacity to produce insulin over periods in vitro of between 18 and 40 days. Specimens obtained by hysterotomy usually showed increasing insulin secretion as measured by the insulin content of the media at each twice-weekly medium change. In most instances, relatively little insulin was produced during the first 7–10 days, but thereafter insulin secretion rapidly increased. In contrast, most specimens from prostaglandin-induced abortions showed high levels of insulin in the medium early in the culture period but little thereafter, indicating rapid release of insulin from damaged tissue. In some instances, after early insulin release by damaged tissue, some recovery of islet function occurred and insulin secretion again increased. The presence of differentiated endocrine cells was confirmed histologically. Tissue from each fetus was placed in a number of petri dishes, and for each individual fetus a qualitatively similar pattern of secretion was noted in each dish. These data suggest that representative and nondestructive monitoring of islet function is possible and may be important before such tissue is considered for use in islet transplantation in insulin-dependent diabetes.

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