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Diabetes. 2004 Dec;53 Suppl 3:S16-21.

Five stages of evolving beta-cell dysfunction during progression to diabetes.

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Section on Islet Transplantation and Cell Biology, Joslin Diabetes Center, One Joslin Place, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


This article proposes five stages in the progression of diabetes, each of which is characterized by different changes in beta-cell mass, phenotype, and function. Stage 1 is compensation: insulin secretion increases to maintain normoglycemia in the face of insulin resistance and/or decreasing beta-cell mass. This stage is characterized by maintenance of differentiated function with intact acute glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). Stage 2 occurs when glucose levels start to rise, reaching approximately 5.0-6.5 mmol/l; this is a stable state of beta-cell adaptation with loss of beta-cell mass and disruption of function as evidenced by diminished GSIS and beta-cell dedifferentiation. Stage 3 is a transient unstable period of early decompensation in which glucose levels rise relatively rapidly to the frank diabetes of stage 4, which is characterized as stable decompensation with more severe beta-cell dedifferentiation. Finally, stage 5 is characterized by severe decompensation representing a profound reduction in beta-cell mass with progression to ketosis. Movement across stages 1-4 can be in either direction. For example, individuals with treated type 2 diabetes can move from stage 4 to stage 1 or stage 2. For type 1 diabetes, as remission develops, progression from stage 4 to stage 2 is typically found. Delineation of these stages provides insight into the pathophysiology of both progression and remission of diabetes.

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