The Impact of Pancreatic Islet Vascular Heterogeneity on Beta Cell Function and Disease

Sammanfattning: Diabetes Mellitus is a group of complex and heterogeneous metabolic disorders characterized by hyperglycemia. Even though the condition has been extensively studied, its causes and complex pathologies are still not fully understood. The occurring damage to the pancreatic islets is strikingly heterogeneous. In type 1 diabetes, the insulin producing beta cells are all destroyed within some islets, and similarly in type 2 diabetes, some islets may be severely affected by amyloid. At the same time other islets, in the near vicinity of the ones that are affected by disease, may appear fully normal in both diseases. Little is known about this heterogeneity in susceptibility to disease between pancreatic islets. This thesis examines the physiological and pathophysiological characteristics of islet subpopulations.Two subpopulations of islets were studied; one constituting highly vascularized islets with superior beta cell functionality, and one of low-oxygenated islets with low metabolic activity. The highly functional islets were found to be more susceptible to cellular stress both in vitro and in vivo, and developed more islet amyloid when metabolically challenged. Highly functional islets preferentially had a direct venous drainage, facilitating the distribution of islet hormones to the peripheral tissues. Further, these islets had an increased capacity for insulin secretion at low glucose levels, a response that was observed abolished in patients with recent onset type 1 diabetes.  The second investigated islet subpopulation, low-oxygenated islets, was found to be an over time stable subpopulation of islets with low vascular density and beta cell proliferation.In summary, two subpopulations of islets can be identified in the pancreas based on dissimilarities in vascular support and blood flow. These subpopulations appear to have different physiological functions of importance for the maintenance of glucose homeostasis. However, they also seem to differ in vulnerability, and a preferential death of the highly functional islets may accelerate the progression of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.