Apoptosis is an established pathway for islet cell demise. Current protocols for assessment of islet cell apoptosis are time-consuming (as with terminal deoxynucleotide transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling reaction) and involve disruption of the islet architecture (as with flow cytometry) or destruction of cell integrity (as with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). The membranes of apoptotic cells, but not those of live cells, are permeant to the DNA-intercalant dye YO-PRO-1. We report a novel methodology for the rapid quantification of apoptosis of human islets: confocal laser optical sectioning and stereologic analysis of intact human islets stained with YO-PRO-1 and Hoechst 33342. The advantages include (1) rapid quantification of apoptosis without disrupting islet architecture and (2) identification of significant heterogeneity in the extent of apoptosis among islets from the same isolate. Confocal laser scanning microscopy microscopic imaging of YO-PRO-1-stained islets may advance investigation of islet cell apoptosis and help develop islet parameters predictive of posttransplant function.
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