Residual insulin positivity and pancreatic atrophy in relation to duration of chronic type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus and microangiopathy

Diabetologia. 1987 Oct;30(10):757-62. doi: 10.1007/BF00275740.


The relationship of residual insulin positivity in chronic Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes and atrophy of the exocrine pancreas to duration of diabetes, age at onset and microangiopathy was studied in 26 patients (disease duration 2 to 54 years, mean 26 years). Islets containing insulin cells were found in 13/26 pancreata. In 5/13 pancreata insulin positive cells were detected in only one lobule, while in 8/13 insulin positivity was multifocal. All patients with diabetes duration less than 11 years had residual insulin cells; whereas, the rate of insulin positivity was near 40% with diabetes duration of more than 11 and 21 years, respectively. Survival of insulin cells was not clearly related to age at onset. HLA-DR expression on insulin cells was seen in one case. Insulitis was lacking. Pancreatic volume determined in 18 patients ranged from 14-110 ml (age adjusted mean 56.3 ml) and was significantly less than that of control subjects (age adjusted, mean 89.9 ml, p less than 0.0001). Computerized morphometry of the exocrine pancreas revealed severe acinar atrophy due to a reduction in size of acinar cells. Acinar atrophy correlated neither with the degree of insulin positivity, disease duration nor severity of microangiopathy. The findings suggest that in about 40% of patients with Type 1 diabetes a small population of insulin cells may escape autoimmune destruction, irrespective of disease duration or age at onset. Though exocrine atrophy and insulin deficiency are associated, the variable extent of pancreatic atrophy could not be related to such factors as amount of surviving insulin cells, duration of diabetes or microangiopathy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Autopsy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / analysis*
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology*
  • Male
  • Pancreas / growth & development
  • Pancreas / pathology*
  • Reference Values


  • Insulin