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      Glucagon secretion and signaling in the development of diabetes

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          Normal release of glucagon from pancreatic islet α-cells promotes glucose mobilization, which counteracts the hypoglycemic actions of insulin, thereby ensuring glucose homeostasis. In treatment of diabetes aimed at rigorously reducing hyperglycemia to avoid chronic complications, the resulting hypoglycemia triggering glucagon release from α-cells is frequently impaired, with ensuing hypoglycemic complications. This review integrates the physiology of glucagon secretion regulating glucose homeostasis in vivo to single α-cell signaling, and how both become perturbed in diabetes. α-cells within the social milieu of the islet micro-organ are regulated not only by intrinsic signaling events but also by paracrine regulation, particularly by adjacent insulin-secreting β-cells and somatostatin-secreting δ-cells. We discuss the intrinsic α-cell signaling events, including glucose sensing and ion channel regulation leading to glucagon secretion. We then discuss the complex crosstalk between the islet cells and the breakdown of this crosstalk in diabetes contributing to the dysregulated glucagon secretion. Whereas, there are many secretory products released by β- and δ-cells that become deficient or excess in diabetes, we discuss the major ones, including the better known insulin and lesser known somatostatin, which act as putative paracrine on/off switches that very finely regulate α-cell secretory responses in health and diabetes. Of note in several type 1 diabetes (T1D) rodent models, blockade of excess somatostatin actions on α-cell could normalize glucagon secretion sufficient to attain normoglycemia in response to hypoglycemic assaults. There has been slow progress in fully elucidating the pathophysiology of the α-cell in diabetes because of the small number of α-cells within an islet and the islet mass becomes severely reduced and inflamed in diabetes. These limitations are just now being surmounted by new approaches.

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          The effect of intensive treatment of diabetes on the development and progression of long-term complications in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial Research Group.

          Long-term microvascular and neurologic complications cause major morbidity and mortality in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). We examined whether intensive treatment with the goal of maintaining blood glucose concentrations close to the normal range could decrease the frequency and severity of these complications. A total of 1441 patients with IDDM--726 with no retinopathy at base line (the primary-prevention cohort) and 715 with mild retinopathy (the secondary-intervention cohort) were randomly assigned to intensive therapy administered either with an external insulin pump or by three or more daily insulin injections and guided by frequent blood glucose monitoring or to conventional therapy with one or two daily insulin injections. The patients were followed for a mean of 6.5 years, and the appearance and progression of retinopathy and other complications were assessed regularly. In the primary-prevention cohort, intensive therapy reduced the adjusted mean risk for the development of retinopathy by 76 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 62 to 85 percent), as compared with conventional therapy. In the secondary-intervention cohort, intensive therapy slowed the progression of retinopathy by 54 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 39 to 66 percent) and reduced the development of proliferative or severe nonproliferative retinopathy by 47 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 14 to 67 percent). In the two cohorts combined, intensive therapy reduced the occurrence of microalbuminuria (urinary albumin excretion of > or = 40 mg per 24 hours) by 39 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 21 to 52 percent), that of albuminuria (urinary albumin excretion of > or = 300 mg per 24 hours) by 54 percent (95 percent confidence interval 19 to 74 percent), and that of clinical neuropathy by 60 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 38 to 74 percent). The chief adverse event associated with intensive therapy was a two-to-threefold increase in severe hypoglycemia. Intensive therapy effectively delays the onset and slows the progression of diabetic retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy in patients with IDDM.
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            Islet transplantation in seven patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus using a glucocorticoid-free immunosuppressive regimen.

            Registry data on patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus who undergo pancreatic islet transplantation indicate that only 8 percent are free of the need for insulin therapy at one year. Seven consecutive patients with type 1 diabetes and a history of severe hypoglycemia and metabolic instability underwent islet transplantation in conjunction with a glucocorticoid-free immunosuppressive regimen consisting of sirolimus, tacrolimus, and daclizumab. Islets were isolated by ductal perfusion with cold, purified collagenase, digested and purified in xenoprotein-free medium, and transplanted immediately by means of a percutaneous transhepatic portal embolization. All seven patients quickly attained sustained insulin independence after transplantation of a mean (+/-SD) islet mass of 11,547+/-1604 islet equivalents per kilogram of body weight (median follow-up, 11.9 months; range, 4.4 to 14.9). All recipients required islets from two donor pancreases, and one required a third transplant from two donors to achieve sustained insulin independence. The mean glycosylated hemoglobin values were normal after transplantation in all recipients. The mean amplitude of glycemic excursions (a measure of fluctuations in blood glucose concentrations) was significantly decreased after the attainment of insulin independence (from 198+/-32 mg per deciliter [11.1+/-1.8 mmol per liter] before transplantation to 119+/-37 mg per deciliter [6.7+/-2.1 mmol per liter] after the first transplantation and 51+/-30 mg per deciliter [2.8+/-1.7 mmol per liter] after the attainment of insulin independence; P<0.001). There were no further episodes of hypoglycemic coma. Complications were minor, and there were no significant increases in lipid concentrations during follow-up. Our observations in patients with type 1 diabetes indicate that islet transplantation can result in insulin independence with excellent metabolic control when glucocorticoid-free immunosuppression is combined with the infusion of an adequate islet mass.
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              Conversion of Adult Pancreatic α-cells to β-cells After Extreme β-cell Loss

              Pancreatic insulin-producing β-cells have a long lifespan, such that in healthy conditions they replicate little during a lifetime. Nevertheless, they show increased self-duplication upon increased metabolic demand or after injury (i.e. β-cell loss). It is unknown if adult mammals can differentiate (regenerate) new β-cells after extreme, total β-cell loss, as in diabetes. This would imply differentiation from precursors or other heterologous (non β-cell) source. Here we show β-cell regeneration in a transgenic model of diphtheria toxin (DT)-induced acute selective near-total β-cell ablation. If given insulin, the mice survived and displayed β-cell mass augmentation with time. Lineage-tracing to label the glucagon-producing α-cells before β-cell ablation tracked large fractions of regenerated β-cells as deriving from α-cells, revealing a previously disregarded degree of pancreatic cell plasticity. Such inter-endocrine spontaneous adult cell conversion could be harnessed towards methods of producing β-cells for diabetes therapies, either in differentiation settings in vitro or in induced regeneration.

                Author and article information

                Front Physiol
                Front Physiol
                Front. Physio.
                Frontiers in Physiology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                04 September 2012
                : 3
                1simpleDepartments of Medicine and Physiology, University of Toronto Toronto, ON, Canada
                2simpleDepartment of Pharmacology, University of Alberta Edmonton, AB, Canada
                Author notes

                Edited by: Wei-Ping Han, Singapore Bioimaging Consortium, Singapore

                Reviewed by: Oksana Sorokina, The University of Edinburgh, UK; Alexey Goltsov, University of Abertay Dundee, UK

                *Correspondence: Herbert Y. Gaisano, Departments of Medicine and Physiology, University of Toronto, Room 7368 Medical Sciences Building, 1 Kings College Circle, Toronto, ON, M5S 1A8, Canada. e-mail: herbert.gaisano@
                Patrick E. MacDonald, Department of Pharmacology, University of Alberta, Room 6-126 Li Ka Shing Centre, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2E1, Canada. e-mail: pmacdonald@
                Mladen Vranic, Departments of Medicine and Physiology, University of Toronto, Room 3269 Medical Sciences Building, Toronto, ON, M5S 1A8, Canada. e-mail: mladen.vranic@

                †These authors equally contributed to this work.

                This article was submitted to Frontiers in Systems Physiology, a specialty of Frontiers in Physiology.

                Copyright © 2012 Gaisano, MacDonald and Vranic.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

                Figures: 3, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 135, Pages: 12, Words: 11264
                Review Article

                Anatomy & Physiology

                somatostatin, hypoglycemia, glucagon secretion, islet α-cell, diabetes


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