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J Endocrinol. 1980 Nov;87(2):293-301.

Pancreatic beta-cell function in the fetal foal and mare.


Insulin secretion and the factors influencing beta-cell function were investigated in the chronically catheterized fetal foal and mare during the second half of gestation. The response of the fetal beta cells to exogenous glucose was also examined. The mean concentration of insulin in the fetal foal was 7.5 +/- 0.5 (S.E.M.) microunit./ml (n = 20) which was significantly less than the corresponding maternal value of 49.0 +/- 5.0 microunit./ml (n = 20, P < 0.01). The insulin concentration in non-pregnant horses was 24.5 +/- 1.5 microunit./ml (n = 5) which was significantly less than the value in the pregnant animals (P < 0.01). However, there was no significant difference in the mean glucose concentration between the groups of adult animals. The insulin concentration was related to the endogenous glucose level in both adult and fetal horses. Wide variation in the maternal insulin concentration was observed above a glucose concentration of about 5.0 mmol/l. The mean concentration of insulin in pregnant mares decreased with increasing gestational age while the mean glucose concentration remained unaltered throughout the second half of gestation. There was no change in the basal concentrations of insulin or glucose in the fetus with gestational age although the fetal beta-cell response to exogenous glucose appeared to increase with increasing fetal age after 270 days of gestation (term 330 days). There was a significant arterio-venous difference in the concentration of insulin across the gravid uterus in the mare when the arterial insulin level was greater than 30 microunits./ml. Below this value, there was no consistent uptake of insulin by the uterus. The observations are discussed in relation to the regulation of insulin release in utero and the effects of pregnancy on maternal beta-cell function.

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