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J Pregnancy. 2012;2012:812094. doi: 10.1155/2012/812094. Epub 2012 Oct 22.

Differential effects of chronic pulsatile versus chronic constant maternal hyperglycemia on fetal pancreatic β-cells.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Constant maternal hyperglycemia limits, while pulsatile maternal hyperglycemia may enhance, fetal glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) in sheep. However, the impact of such different patterns of hyperglycemia on the development of the fetal β-cell is unknown. We measured the impact of one week of chronic constant hyperglycemia (CHG, n = 6) versus pulsatile hyperglycemia (PHG, n = 5) versus controls (n = 7) on the percentage of the fetal pancreas staining for insulin (β-cell area), mitotic and apoptotic indices and size of fetal β-cells, and fetal insulin secretion in sheep. Baseline insulin concentrations were higher in CHG fetuses (P < 0.05) compared to controls and PHG. GSIS was lower in the CHG group (P < 0.005) compared to controls and PHG. PHG β-cell area was increased 50% (P < 0.05) compared to controls and CHG. CHG β-cell apoptosis was increased over 400% (P < 0.05) compared to controls and PHG. These results indicate that late gestation constant maternal hyperglycemia leads to significant β-cell toxicity (increased apoptosis and decreased GSIS). Furthermore, pulsatile maternal hyperglycemia increases pancreatic β-cell area but did not increase GSIS, indicating decreased β-cell responsiveness. These findings demonstrate differential effects that the pattern of maternal hyperglycemia has on fetal pancreatic β-cell development, which might contribute to later life limitation in insulin secretion.

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