Islet autotransplantation for treatment of chronic painful pancreatitis in nondiabetic patients reliably establishes normoglycemia and phasic insulin secretion and can achieve prolonged insulin independence. Whether functional transplanted beta-cell reserve is normal after intrahepatic islet transplantation is not known, nor is it known whether conventional measures of insulin secretion accurately reflect the functional beta-cell mass. To determine insulin secretory reserve after islet transplant, we performed studies of glucose potentiation of arginine-induced insulin secretion (GPAIS) in eight recipients of intrahepatic islet autotransplants. All eight subjects (and matched, healthy controls) were studied cross-sectionally 49 +/- 12 months posttransplant, and four subjects were studied pre- and posttransplant. Subjects had received a mean +/- SE of 479,000 +/- 79,000 islets, and all were insulin independent and normoglycemic at the time of study. Acute insulin responses to arginine, glucose, and GPAIS were significantly reduced after islet transplantation in both study groups. Importantly, the magnitudes of these three responses were highly correlated to the mass of islets transplanted (response to glucose: r = 0.84, P < 0.01; response to arginine: r = 0.69, P < 0.05; response to GPAIS = 0.81, P < 0.01). Data from hemipancreatectomized and normal control subjects generally agreed with the regression lines. These findings demonstrate that despite normoglycemia and insulin independence, recipients of intrahepatic islet transplantation have significantly reduced functional beta-secretory reserve and that after islet transplantation, functional beta-cell mass can be estimated by measurements of glucose and arginine-induced insulin responses. Thus, these measurements can be used to estimate the mass and functional capacity of islets surviving intrahepatic transplantation in humans.

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