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Diabetologia. 2007 Nov;50(11):2323-31. Epub 2007 Sep 6.

Modestly increased beta cell apoptosis but no increased beta cell replication in recent-onset type 1 diabetic patients who died of diabetic ketoacidosis.

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Larry Hillblom Islet Research Center, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, 24-130 Warren Hall, 900 Veteran Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7073, USA.



Type 1 diabetes is characterised by a deficit in beta cell mass thought to be due to immune-mediated increased beta cell apoptosis. Beta cell turnover has not been examined in the context of new-onset type 1 diabetes with diabetic ketoacidosis.


Samples of pancreas were obtained at autopsy from nine patients, aged 12 to 38 years (mean 24.3+/-3.4 years), who had had type 1 diabetes for less than 3 years before death due to diabetic ketoacidosis. Samples of pancreas obtained at autopsy from nine non-diabetic cases aged 11.5 to 38 years (mean 24.2+/-3.4 years) were used as control. Fractional beta cell area (insulin staining), beta cell replication (insulin and Ki67 staining) and beta cell apoptosis (insulin and TUNEL staining) were measured.


In pancreas obtained at autopsy from recent-onset type 1 diabetes patients who had died of diabetic ketoacidosis, the beta cell deficit varied from 70 to 99% (mean 90%). The pattern of beta cell loss was lobular, with almost all beta cells absent in most pancreatic lobules; islets in lobules not devoid of beta cells had reduced or a near-normal complement of beta cells. Beta cell apoptosis was increased in recent-onset type 1 diabetes, but to a surprisingly modest degree given the marked hyperglycaemia (30 mmol/l), acidosis and presumably high NEFA. Beta cell replication, scattered pancreatic beta cells and beta cells in exocrine ducts were not increased in recent-onset type 1 diabetes.


These findings do not support the notion of active beta cell regeneration by replication in new-onset type 1 diabetes under conditions of diabetic ketoacidosis. The gluco-lipotoxicity reported in isolated human islets may be less evident in vivo.

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