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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2006;38(5-6):726-36. Epub 2006 Jan 17.

Role of islet amyloid in type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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Department of Metabolic and Endocrine Diseases, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common metabolic diseases worldwide and its prevalence is rapidly increasing. Due to its chronic nature (diabetes mellitus can be treated but as yet not cured) and its serious complications, it is one of the most expensive diseases with regard to total health care costs per patient. The elevated blood glucose levels in diabetes mellitus are caused by a defect in production and/or secretion of the polypeptide hormone insulin, which normally promotes glucose-uptake in cells. Insulin is produced by the pancreatic 'beta-cells' in the 'islets of Langerhans', which lie distributed within the exocrine pancreatic tissue. In type 2 diabetes mellitus, the initial defect in the pathogenesis of the disease in most of the patients is believed to be 'insulin resistance'. Hyperglycemia (clinically overt diabetes mellitus) will not develop as long as the body is able to produce enough insulin to compensate for the reduced insulin action. When this compensation fails ('beta-cell failure') blood glucose levels will become too high. In this review, we discuss one of the mechanisms that have been implicated in the development of beta-cell failure, i.e. amyloid formation in the pancreatic islets. This islet amyloid is a characteristic histopathological feature of type 2 diabetes mellitus and both in vitro and in vivo studies have revealed that its formation causes death of islet beta-cells. Being a common pathogenic factor in an otherwise heterogeneous disease, islet amyloidosis is an attractive novel target for therapeutic intervention in type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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