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Diabetes Obes Metab. 2008 Nov;10 Suppl 4:23-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2008.00939.x.

Relationship between beta-cell mass and diabetes onset.

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Larry Hillblom Islet Research Center, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7073, USA.


Regulation of blood glucose concentrations requires an adequate number of beta-cells that respond appropriately to blood glucose levels. beta-Cell mass cannot yet be measured in humans in vivo, necessitating autopsy studies, although both pre- and postmorbid changes may confound this approach. Autopsy studies report deficits in beta-cell mass ranging from 0 to 65% in type 2 diabetes (T2DM), and approximately 70-100% in type 1 diabetes (T1DM), and, when evaluated, increased beta-cell apoptosis in both T1DM and T2DM. A deficit of beta-cell mass of approximately 50% in animal studies leads to impaired insulin secretion (when evaluated directly in the portal vein) and induction of insulin resistance. We postulate three phases for diabetes progression. Phase 1: selective beta-cell cytotoxicity (autoimmune in T1DM, unknown in T2DM) leading to impaired beta-cell function and gradual loss of beta-cell mass through apoptosis. Phase 2: decompensation of glucose control when the pattern of portal vein insulin secretion is sufficiently impaired to cause hepatic insulin resistance. Phase 3: adverse consequences of glucose toxicity accelerate beta-cell dysfunction and insulin resistance. The relative contribution of beta-cell loss versus beta-cell dysfunction to diabetes onset remains an area of controversy. However, because cytotoxicity sufficient to induce beta-cell apoptosis predictably disturbs beta-cell function, it is naive to attempt to distinguish the relative contributions of these linked processes to diabetes onset.

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