The biomechanical properties of aortic samples from patients with Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus and age- and sex-matched control subjects were analysed using a materials testing machine. The specimens were prepared from tissue outside areas of visible atherosclerosis in order to discriminate between primary Type 1 diabetic alterations in the aortae and secondary changes due to increased atherosclerosis. We paid special attention to the correction of biomechanical parameters for differences in wall thickness and registration of specimen length values. In the Type 1 diabetic aortae a marked reduction was found in the extensibility and an increase in their stiffness. The reduced extensibility was correlated significantly to the duration of Type 1 diabetes. The pronounced alterations in the mechanical properties could not be explained by the increase in the wall thickness which was observed among the Type 1 diabetic patients and the alterations could not be correlated to the grade of atherosclerosis in the thoracic aorta. The results of the present study, therefore, strongly suggest that Type 1 diabetic patients develop alterations in the arterial connective tissue independent of the presence of atherosclerosis. Such primary alterations in the vessel wall may play a role in the pathogenesis of large vessel disease among these patients.