Aims/hypothesis: Previous studies of pancreases obtained at autopsy or by radiography note reduced pancreas weight (PW) and size, respectively, in type 1 diabetes; this finding is widely considered to be the result of chronic insulinopenia. This literature is, however, limited with respect to the influence of age, sex, anthropometric factors and disease duration on these observations. Moreover, data are sparse for young children, a group of particular interest for type 1 diabetes. We hypothesised that the pancreas-to-body weight ratio would normalise confounding inter-subject factors, thereby permitting better characterisation of PW in type 1 diabetes.
Methods: Transplant-grade pancreases were recovered from 216 organ donors with type 1 diabetes (n = 90), type 2 diabetes (n = 40) and no diabetes (n = 86). Whole-organ and head, body and tail weights were determined. The relative PW (RPW; PW [g] / body weight [kg]) was calculated and tested for normalisation of potential differences due to age, sex and BMI.
Results: PW significantly correlated with body weight in control donors (R (2) = 0.76, p < 0.001) while RPW (1.03 ± 0.36, mean ± SD) did not significantly differ across ages (0-58 years). Donors with type 1 diabetes (0.57 ± 0.18, p < 0.001), but not those with type 2 diabetes (0.93 ± 0.30), had significantly lower RPW. The relative weights of each pancreatic region from donors with type 1 diabetes were significantly smaller than those of regions from control donors and donors with type 2 diabetes (p < 0.001). Perhaps most interestingly, the RPW was not significantly associated with duration of type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Conclusions/interpretation: RPW allows for comparisons across a wide range of donor ages by eliminating confounding variables. These data validate an interesting feature of the type 1 diabetes pancreas and underscore the need for additional studies to identify the mechanistic basis for this finding, including those beyond the chronic loss of endogenous insulin secretion.
Keywords: Children; Organ donor; Pancreas; Pancreas weight; Type 1 diabetes; Type 2 diabetes.