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J Immunotoxicol. 2009 Mar;6(1):36-41. doi: 10.1080/15476910802604564.

Effects of diabetes mellitus vs. in vitro hyperglycemia on select immune cell functions.

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Department of Medicine, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid, Jordan.


Diabetes mellitus (DM), one of the commonest metabolic disorders, can impair the function of cells involved in cellular and/or humoral immunity. This study sought to define potential effects upon cell-mediated immune cells due to an acute hyperglycemic state (in vitro) for comparison against those that might be attributable to a diabetic phenotype itself. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were isolated from ten diabetic patients (5 with Type I disease and 5 with Type II) and 10 healthy controls. The cells were then challenged with 1 of 3 different mitogens (concanavalin A, phytohemagglutinin, pokeweed mitogen) in the presence of differing glucose concentrations (0, 100, 200, 400, or 800 mg/dl), and proliferative responses assessed. Neutrophils (PMNC) from the blood samples, exposed to the same experimental conditions, were analyzed for respiratory burst activity using nitroblue tetrazolium. The results indicated that there was significant inhibition of the proliferative responses to mitogens among the stimulated PBMC and in respiratory burst activity among the PMNC obtained from the diabetic patients. However, these effects were not affected by either the added presence of increasing amounts of exogenous glucose, the type of diabetes the patients had, the length of time the patient had had the disease, or whether or not the patients had been receiving insulin treatments. In contrast, the PBMC from healthy individuals appeared to display dose-trend decreases in responsiveness to mitogens; interestingly, similar effects on their PMNC were not evident. It was thus concluded that in situ ongoing repeated hyperglycemic states caused changes in cells of the immune system that could have been caused by repeated "continuous" exposures to excess sugar. Further studies are needed to more clearly identify hyperglycemia (sugar)-sensitive targets on/in these cells that could contribute to the appearance of the diabetic immunodeficiency in these types of patients.

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