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Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2004 Sep-Oct;20(5):394-8.

The natural history of insulin content in the pancreas of female and male non-obese diabetic mouse: implications for trials of diabetes prevention in humans.

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Department of Diabetes and Metabolism, St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, UK.



The non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse is a well-established animal model used to study the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes. The NOD mouse spontaneously develops an autoimmune form of the disease between 12 and 18 weeks of age, characterized by an infiltration of the endocrine pancreas by autoreactive mononuclear cells. In our colony, all animals showed signs of insulitis, but only approximately 60% of females and 15% of males developed diabetes. The aim of this study was to determine the natural history of insulin content in the pancreas of female and male NOD/Ba mice during their life span.


Pancreata were collected at two-week intervals, from 4 weeks of age to 30 weeks of age. Four animals at each age as well as 18 diabetic female NOD mice were studied. Pancreata were homogenized, supernatants collected and insulin measured by radioimmunoassay.


Female and male non-diabetic NOD mice showed significantly higher levels of insulin in the pancreata in comparison to the diabetic female animals. Pancreata from female (n = 56) animals showed more insulin content than male pancreata (n = 56), suggesting beta-cell hyperactivity as a result of the ongoing beta-cell destruction. However this difference was only significant at an early age (4-12 weeks of age) (p < 0.04). Insulin content in diabetic female NOD pancreas declines with time, and was very low at the age of 25 to 34 weeks. This decline was not observed in male pancreata despite the presence of lymphocytic infiltration.


We conclude that a reduction in pancreatic insulin content occurs slowly in the natural history of the disease and that such reduction only becomes apparent after diagnosis of hyperglycaemia. Occurrence of extensive lymphocytic infiltration in non-diabetic male mice is not accompanied by a reduction of insulin content in the pancreas. These findings have implications for designing studies in humans which aims to protect residual beta-cell function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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