PloS one

Purified human pancreatic duct cell culture conditions defined by serum-free high-content growth factor screening.

PMID 22442738


The proliferation of pancreatic duct-like CK19+ cells has implications for multiple disease states including pancreatic cancer and diabetes mellitus. The in vitro study of this important cell type has been hampered by their limited expansion compared to fibroblast-like vimentin+ cells that overgrow primary cultures. We aimed to develop a screening platform for duct cell mitogens after depletion of the vimentin+ population. The CD90 cell surface marker was used to remove the vimentin+ cells from islet-depleted human pancreas cell cultures by magnetic-activated cell sorting. Cell sorting decreased CD90+ cell contamination of the cultures from 34±20% to 1.3±0.6%, yielding purified CK19+ cultures with epithelial morphology. A full-factorial experimental design was then applied to test the mitogenic effects of bFGF, EGF, HGF, KGF and VEGF. After 6 days in test conditions, the cells were labelled with BrdU, stained and analyzed by high-throughput imaging. This screening assay confirmed the expected mitogenic effects of bFGF, EGF, HGF and KGF on CK19+ cells and additionally revealed interactions between these factors and VEGF. A serum-free medium containing bFGF, EGF, HGF and KGF led to CK19+ cell expansion comparable to the addition of 10% serum. The methods developed in this work should advance pancreatic cancer and diabetes research by providing effective cell culture and high-throughput screening platforms to study purified primary pancreatic CK19+ cells.