Diabetes results from an absolute or relative reduction in pancreatic beta cell mass (BCM) leading to insufficient insulin secretion and hyperglycemia. Measurement of insulin secretory capacity is currently used as a surrogate measure of BCM. However, serum insulin concentrations provide an imprecise index of BCM, and no reliable noninvasive measure of BCM is currently available. Type 2 vesicular monoamine transporters (VMAT2) are expressed in human islet beta cells, as well as in tissues of the CNS. [11C]Dihydrotetrabenazine ([11C]DTBZ) binds specifically to VMAT2 and is a radioligand currently used in clinical imaging of the brain. Here we report the use of [11C]DTBZ to estimate BCM in a rodent model of spontaneous type 1 diabetes (the BB-DP rat). In longitudinal PET studies of the BB-DP rat, we found a significant decline in pancreatic uptake of [11C]DTBZ that anticipated the loss of glycemic control. Based on comparison of standardized uptake values (SUVs) of [11C]DTBZ and blood glucose concentrations, loss of more than 65% of the original SUV correlated significantly with the development of persistent hyperglycemia. These studies suggest that PET-based quantitation of VMAT2 receptors provides a noninvasive measurement of BCM that could be used to study the pathogenesis of diabetes and to monitor therapeutic interventions.