Aims/hypothesis: A progressive loss of beta cell function and mass are important contributory factors in the development and progression of type 2 diabetes. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of a primary reduction in beta cell mass on beta cell function in vivo and in the perfused pancreas and to relate these characteristics to beta cell mass.
Methods: The beta cell mass of six Göttingen minipigs was reduced chemically (using 67 mg/kg nicotinamide and 125 mg/kg streptozotocin). Six untreated minipigs were kept as control animals. Insulin responses were evaluated in vivo using the mixed meal tolerance test (2 g/kg oral glucose) and in the isolated perfused pancreata from the same animals by stimulation with glucose, glucagon-like peptide-1 or arginine.
Results: Beta cell mass was reduced in the beta-cell-reduced animals compared with the control minipigs (182+/-76 vs 464+/-156 mg, p<0.01). AUC(glucose) was increased in the beta-cell-reduced animals (1383+/-385 vs 853+/-113 mmol.l(-1).min in control minipigs, p<0.01), as was the insulin response to oral glucose per unit of beta cell mass (123+/-84 vs 56+/-24 pmol.l(-1).min.mg(-1), p<0.05). Total in vitro insulin secretion was increased per unit of beta cell mass in nicotinamide + streptozotocin pancreata compared to controls (83.7+/-45.9 vs 34.6+/-14.4 nmol/mg beta cells, p<0.05) with responses to glucose and glucagon-like peptide-1 showing a partial compensation for reduced beta cell mass, whereas no compensation was seen in response to arginine.
Conclusions/interpretation: A primary reduction in beta cell mass impairs glucose tolerance and leads to a compensatory increase in insulin secretion from the remaining beta cells after oral glucose in vivo, which is even more apparent in the perfused pancreas. It remains to be determined whether this compensation can be maintained in the long term.