Stereological assessment of pancreatic beta-cell mass development in male Zucker Diabetic Fatty (ZDF) rats: correlation with pancreatic beta-cell function

J Anat. 2010 Nov;217(5):624-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2010.01285.x. Epub 2010 Aug 30.


The present study was initiated to improve our understanding of pancreatic beta-cell dynamics in male Zucker Diabetic Fatty (ZDF) rats and hence provide a framework for future diabetes studies in this animal model. Male ZDF rats from 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 20 and 26 weeks of age were subjected to an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The animals were then euthanized and pancreases were removed for morphometric analyses of pancreatic beta-cell mass. As evident by a marked fourfold increase in insulin secretion, insulin resistance developed rapidly from 6 to 8 weeks of age. Simultaneously, the pancreatic beta-cell mass expanded from 6.17 ± 0.41 mg at 6 weeks of age, reaching a maximum of 16.5 ± 2.5 mg at 16 weeks of age, at which time pancreatic beta-cell mass gradually declined. The corresponding changes in glucose/insulin homeostasis were analysed using a standard insulin sensitivity index (ISI), an area under the curve (AUC) glucose-insulin index, or simple semi-fasted glucose levels. The study demonstrated that male ZDF rats underwent rapid changes in pancreatic beta-cell mass from the onset of insulin resistance to frank diabetes coupled directly to marked alterations in glucose/insulin homeostasis. The study underscores the need for a critical co-examination of glucose homeostatic parameters in studies investigating the effects of novel anti-diabetic compounds on pancreatic beta-cell mass in the male ZDF rat. A simple assessment of fasting glucose levels coupled with information about age can provide a correct indication of the actual pancreatic beta-cell mass and the physiological state of the animal.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Weight
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Homeostasis
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / pathology*
  • Male
  • Pancreas / cytology*
  • Pancreas / physiopathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Zucker


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin