Studies of muscle capillary basement membranes in normal subjects, diabetic, and prediabetic patients

J Clin Invest. 1968 Sep;47(9):1973-99. doi: 10.1172/JCI105886.


A technique is described for the measurement of muscle capillary basement membranes by electron microscopic examination of needle biopsies of the quadriceps muscle. With this procedure it has been possible to obtain an objective evaluation of the significance of capillary basement membrane hypertrophy in diabetic microangiopathy. The results of such studies of muscle capillary basement membrane thickness in 50 normal, 51 diabetic, and 30 prediabetic patients have demonstrated the following. First, that the average capillary basement membrane width of diabetic patients is over twice that of normal subjects; moreover, such basement membrane thickening is a very constant finding among overtly diabetic patients, in that approximately 98% of individual diabetic subjects demonstrated this lesion. The degree of basement membrane thickening in diabetic patients is, however, unrelated to age, weight, severity, or duration of diabetes. Second, capillary basement membrane hypertrophy has been found in approximately 50% of patients who are genetically prediabetic but who have not yet demonstrated evidence of the manifest carbohydrate disturbances of diabetes mellitus. Third, in contrast to the results obtained in genetically diabetic patients, subjects with severe hyperglycemia due to causes other than genetic diabetes only infrequently show basement membrane hypertrophy. These results indicate that thickening of the muscle capillary basement membranes is a characteristic of genetic diabetes mellitus, and further, that the hyperglycemia of diabetes is probably not the factor responsible for the microangiopathy characteristic of diabetes mellitus. Finally, the discovery of thickened capillary basement membranes in prediabetic patients suggests that basement membrane hypertrophy is a relatively early lesion of the diabetic syndrome and provides further support for the conclusion that this vascular defect is independent of carbohydrate derangements of diabetes mellitus.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane*
  • Biopsy
  • Capillaries / pathology*
  • Cricetinae
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / etiology
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / pathology
  • Male
  • Methods
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / blood supply*
  • Prediabetic State / pathology*
  • Rats