Hypoglycemia limits optimal glycemic control in type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM), making novel strategies to mitigate it desirable. We hypothesized that portal (Po) vein insulin delivery would lessen hypoglycemia. In the conscious dog, insulin was infused into the hepatic Po vein or a peripheral (Pe) vein at a rate four times of basal. In protocol 1, a full counterregulatory response was allowed, whereas in protocol 2, glucagon was fixed at basal, mimicking the diminished α-cell response to hypoglycemia seen in T1DM. In protocol 1, glucose fell faster with Pe insulin than with Po insulin, reaching 56 ± 3 vs. 70 ± 6 mg/dL (P = 0.04) at 60 min. The change in area under the curve (ΔAUC) for glucagon was similar between Pe and Po, but the peak occurred earlier in Pe. The ΔAUC for epinephrine was greater with Pe than with Po (67 ± 17 vs. 36 ± 14 ng/mL/180 min). In protocol 2, glucose also fell more rapidly than in protocol 1 and fell faster in Pe than in Po, reaching 41 ± 3 vs. 67 ± 2 mg/dL (P < 0.01) by 60 min. Without a rise in glucagon, the epinephrine responses were much larger (ΔAUC of 204 ± 22 for Pe vs. 96 ± 29 ng/mL/180 min for Po). In summary, Pe insulin delivery exacerbates hypoglycemia, particularly in the presence of a diminished glucagon response. Po vein insulin delivery, or strategies that mimic it (i.e., liver-preferential insulin analogs), should therefore lessen hypoglycemia.
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