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Nils Wierup

Nils Wierup

Senior lecturer

Nils Wierup

Early deficits in insulin secretion, beta cell mass and islet blood perfusion precede onset of autoimmune type 1 diabetes in BioBreeding rats


  • Anya Medina
  • Saba Parween
  • Sara Ullsten
  • Neelanjan Vishnu
  • Yuk Ting Siu
  • My Quach
  • Hedvig Bennet
  • Alexander Balhuizen
  • Lina Åkesson
  • Nils Wierup
  • Per Ola Carlsson
  • Ulf Ahlgren
  • Åke Lernmark
  • Malin Fex

Summary, in English

Aims/hypothesis: Genetic studies show coupling of genes affecting beta cell function to type 1 diabetes, but hitherto no studies on whether beta cell dysfunction could precede insulitis and clinical onset of type 1 diabetes are available. Methods: We used 40-day-old BioBreeding (BB) DRLyp/Lyp rats (a model of spontaneous autoimmune type 1 diabetes) and diabetes-resistant DRLyp/+ and DR+/+ littermates (controls) to investigate beta cell function in vivo, and insulin and glucagon secretion in vitro. Beta cell mass was assessed by optical projection tomography (OPT) and morphometry. Additionally, measurements of intra-islet blood flow were performed using microsphere injections. We also assessed immune cell infiltration, cytokine expression in islets (by immunohistochemistry and qPCR), as well as islet Glut2 expression and ATP/ADP ratio to determine effects on glucose uptake and metabolism in beta cells. Results: DRLyp/Lyp rats were normoglycaemic and without traces of immune cell infiltrates. However, IVGTTs revealed a significant decrease in the acute insulin response to glucose compared with control rats (1685.3 ± 121.3 vs 633.3 ± 148.7; p < 0.0001). In agreement, insulin secretion was severely perturbed in isolated islets, and both first- and second-phase insulin release were lowered compared with control rats, while glucagon secretion was similar in both groups. Interestingly, after 5–7 days of culture of islets from DRLyp/Lyp rats in normal media, glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) was improved; although, a significant decrease in GSIS was still evident compared with islets from control rats at this time (7393.9 ± 1593.7 vs 4416.8 ± 1230.5 pg islet−1 h−1; p < 0.0001). Compared with controls, OPT of whole pancreas from DRLyp/Lyp rats revealed significant reductions in medium (4.1 × 109 ± 9.5 × 107 vs 3.8 × 109 ± 5.8 × 107 μm3; p = 0.044) and small sized islets (1.6 × 109 ± 5.1 × 107 vs 1.4 × 109 ± 4.5 × 107 μm3; p = 0.035). Finally, we found lower intra-islet blood perfusion in vivo (113.1 ± 16.8 vs 76.9 ± 11.8 μl min−1 [g pancreas]−1; p = 0.023) and alterations in the beta cell ATP/ADP ratio in DRLyp/Lyp rats vs control rats. Conclusions/interpretation: The present study identifies a deterioration of beta cell function and mass, and intra-islet blood flow that precedes insulitis and diabetes development in animals prone to autoimmune type 1 diabetes. These underlying changes in islet function may be previously unrecognised factors of importance in type 1 diabetes development.


  • Diabetes - Molecular Metabolism
  • Department of Experimental Medical Science
  • EXODIAB: Excellence of Diabetes Research in Sweden

Publishing year












Document type

Journal article




  • Endocrinology and Diabetes


  • Beta cell dysfunction
  • Beta cell mass
  • Insulin secretion
  • Islet blood flow
  • Type 1 diabetes



Research group

  • Diabetes - Molecular Metabolism


  • ISSN: 0012-186X