Insulin deficiency leads to reduced pancreas size in type 1 diabetes

Individuals with Type 1 diabetes have a smaller pancreas than people without diabetes. This is surprising because insulin-producing beta cells account for just a small fraction of the pancreas, so the loss of beta cells in Type 1 diabetes would not be expected to reduce pancreas size.

Now, a study of one family from Alabama has led Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers to discover that insulin deficiency, independent of the autoimmunity associated with Type 1 diabetes, is the principal factor leading to a markedly smaller pancreas.

Four members of this family of eight have monogenic diabetes from a rare mutation in the insulin gene, leading to insulin deficiency without autoimmunity. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pancreas showed a reduced size and altered shape in the individuals with diabetes. This was similar to what had previously been observed in individuals with Type 1 diabetes. These new findings are published in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.