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Ann Acad Med Singapore. 1997 May;26(3):326-30.

Non-insulin dependent diabetes--the past, present and future.

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National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2560, USA.


Diabetes, known since antiquity, has been defined by glycosuria. In 1886, when Minkowski demonstrated that pancreatectomized dogs developed diabetes, the islets of Langerhans became a focus of the search for an active principle culminating in the discovery and the isolation of insulin in 1921 by Banting, Best and Collip. In 1959, the radioimmunoassay of Yalow and Berson solidified the concept of insulin resistance in non-insulin dependent diabetes (NIDDM). In 1971, the insulin receptor was defined as a cell surface protein that initiated the insulin signal transduction cascade. Today, we know that NIDDM accounts for at least 90% of all diabetes worldwide and involves approximately 100 million people. The microvascular complications of NIDDM are the same as for insulin dependent diabetes (IDDM) and are related to the intensity and duration of hyperglycaemia. Further, it is clear from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) that all microvascular complications can be reduced with intensive control of the blood glucose. Macrovascular disease is also accelerated in NIDDM, including both hypertension and dyslipidemia. The major risk factor for NIDDM are age, obesity, physical inactivity, and genetic background. The earliest features seen in individuals destined to develop NIDDM is insulin resistance, but for hyperglycaemia to ensure there must be a defect in insulin secretion. Thus, insulin resistance defines the prehyperglycaemic phase of NIDDM, but varying degrees of insulin secretory deficiency define the hyperglycaemic phase. Macrovascular risk occurs throughout the lifetime of the individual, whereas microvascular risk ensues with the inception of hyperglycaemia. Tomorrow, we will understand more clearly whether lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, or new classes of drugs, can delay or prevent NIDDM. Clinical trials are now beginning to test whether impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) can be delayed or prevented from moving to overt NIDDM. The genetics of NIDDM are under intense study. Mutations in the insulin receptor lead to NIDDM in a small number of patients, and mutations in the glucokinase gene lead to maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY). Work is now underway to study other candidate genes as well as work on positional cloning techniques to identify diabetes genetic loci. The hormone Leptin has just been discovered and is a major regulator of body weight. In summary, the most important new emphasis on the treatment of NIDDM is the recognition of the importance of hyperglycaemia and our ability to both treat and possibly prevent this metabolic perturbation. This joins the longer-term emphasis on cardiovascular risk reduction from both treatment and prevention of hypertension and dyslipidemia.

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