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Pulsatile hyperglycemia increases insulin secretion but not pancreatic β-cell mass in intrauterine growth-restricted fetal sheep

  • B. H. Boehmer (a1), L. D. Brown (a1), S. R. Wesolowski (a1), W. W. Hay (a1) and P. J. Rozance (a1)...


Impaired β-cell development and insulin secretion are characteristic of intrauterine growth-restricted (IUGR) fetuses. In normally grown late gestation fetal sheep pancreatic β-cell numbers and insulin secretion are increased by 7–10 days of pulsatile hyperglycemia (PHG). Our objective was to determine if IUGR fetal sheep β-cell numbers and insulin secretion could also be increased by PHG or if IUGR fetal β-cells do not have the capacity to respond to PHG. Following chronic placental insufficiency producing IUGR in twin gestation pregnancies (n=7), fetuses were administered a PHG infusion, consisting of 60 min, high rate, pulsed infusions of dextrose three times a day with an additional continuous, low-rate infusion of dextrose to prevent a decrease in glucose concentrations between the pulses or a control saline infusion. PHG fetuses were compared with their twin IUGR fetus, which received a saline infusion for 7 days. The pulsed glucose infusion increased fetal arterial glucose concentrations an average of 83% during the infusion. Following the 7-day infusion, a square-wave fetal hyperglycemic clamp was performed in both groups to measure insulin secretion. The rate of increase in fetal insulin concentrations during the first 20 min of a square-wave hyperglycemic clamp was 44% faster in the PHG fetuses compared with saline fetuses (P<0.05). There were no differences in islet size, the insulin+ area of the pancreas and of the islets, and β-cell mass between groups (P>0.23). Chronic PHG increases early phase insulin secretion in response to acute hyperglycemia, indicating that IUGR fetal β-cells are functionally responsive to chronic PHG.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: P. J. Rozance, Perinatal Research Facility, University of Colorado Denver, 13243 E. 23rd Ave., MS F441, Aurora, CO 80045, USA. E-mail:


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