The natural history of type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is characterized by progressive deterioration of pancreatic β-cell function, leading to worsening glycemia over time. As current antidiabetic therapies have not yet been shown to profoundly alter this natural history, many patients ultimately will require exogenous insulin therapy to obtain adequate glycemic control. Interestingly, the temporary use of short-term intensive insulin therapy early in the course of T2DM has recently emerged as a therapeutic option that may offer favourable long-term effects on β-cell function. Indeed, after receiving this treatment, many patients will experience sustained euglycemia without requiring any antidiabetic therapy. This apparent 'remission' of diabetes is likely secondary to improved β-cell function and can last for more than a year, although it is not sustained and hyperglycemia eventually will return. Nevertheless, owing to its effects on β-cell function, short-term intensive insulin therapy holds promise as a means for modifying the natural history of T2DM and warrants further study in this context. In this report, we will review the rationale and evidence underlying this interesting therapeutic option, and its implications for both clinical research and the management of patients with T2DM.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.