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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Jul 15;303(2):E253-64. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00182.2012. Epub 2012 May 15.

The effects of 13 wk of liraglutide treatment on endocrine and exocrine pancreas in male and female ZDF rats: a quantitative and qualitative analysis revealing no evidence of drug-induced pancreatitis.

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Gubra ApS, Hørsholm, Denmark.


A possible association between glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogs and incidences of pancreatitis has been suggested based on clinical studies. In male and female diabetic Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats, we investigated the effects of continuous administration of liraglutide and exenatide on biochemical [lipase, pancreatic amylase (P-amylase)] and histopathological markers of pancreatitis. Male and female ZDF rats were dosed for 13 wk with liraglutide (0.4 or 1.0 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1) sc once daily) or exenatide (0.25 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1) sc, Alzet osmotic minipumps). P-amylase and lipase plasma activity were measured, and an extended histopathological and stereological (specific cell mass and proliferation rate) evaluation of the exocrine and the endocrine pancreas was performed. Expectedly, liraglutide and exenatide lowered blood glucose and Hb A(1c) in male and female ZDF rats, whereas β-cell mass and proliferation rate were increased with greatly improved blood glucose control. Whereas neither analog affected lipase activity, small increases in P-amylase activity were observed in animals treated with liraglutide and exenatide. However, concurrent or permanent increases in lipase and P-amylase activity were never observed. Triglycerides were lowered by both GLP-1 analogs. The qualitative histopathological findings did not reveal adverse effects of liraglutide. The findings were mainly minimal in severity and focal in distribution. Similarly, the quantitative stereological analyses revealed no effects of liraglutide or exenatide on overall pancreas weight or exocrine and duct cell mass or proliferation. The present study demonstrates that, in overtly diabetic male and female ZDF rats, prolonged exposure to GLP-1 receptor agonists does not affect biochemical or histopathological markers of pancreatitis, and whereas both exenatide and liraglutide increase β-cell mass, they have no effect on the exocrine pancreas. However, clinical outcome studies and studies using primate tissues and/or studies in nonhuman primates are needed to further assess human risk.

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