The pancreas includes two major systems: the endocrine system, which produces and secretes hormones, and the exocrine system, which accounts for approximately 90% of the pancreas and includes cells that produce and secrete digestive enzymes. The digestive enzymes are produced in the pancreatic acinar cells, stored in vesicles called zymogens, and are then released into the duodenum via the pancreatic duct to initiate metabolic processes. The enzymes produced by the acinar cells can kill cells or degrade cell-free RNA. In addition, acinar cells are fragile, and common dissociation protocols result in a large number of dead cells and cell-free proteases and RNases. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges in pancreatic tissue digestion is recovering intact and viable cells, especially acinar cells. The protocol presented in this article shows a two-step method that we developed to meet this need. The protocol can be used to digest normal pancreata, pancreata that include pre-malignant lesions, or pancreatic tumors that include a large number of stromal and immune cells.
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