Microvessels in the cheek pouch of the hamster were investigated to determine their structural, reactivity, and permeability characteristics after the induction of diabetes. To induce diabetes, hamsters were injected with streptozotocin (50 mg/kg body wt./day, i.p., for 3 days). Vehicle-injected, age-matched hamsters were the controls. Diabetic hamsters were characterized by elevated serum glucose (>300 mg/dl) and triglycerides and decreased serum insulin (50%). Microvascular studies were completed on cheek pouch micro-vessels suffused with Ringer's solution (37°C, pH 7.4) bubbled with 95% N2-5% CO2. Vascular dimensions and reactivity of selected arterioles and venules to microapplications of norepinephrine were determined with a video micrometer using intravital microscopy. Restrictiveness of the microvascular membranes to fluorescein-labeled dextran fractions (mol wt: 150,000; 40,000; 20,000 daltons) was measured by determining the number of leaky sites. Stimulation of membrane permeability by histamine was investigated. There were no major alterations in arteriolar lumen and wall diameters, whereas venular lumen diameters were increased in hamsters diabetic for two months. Likewise, arteriolar responses to norepinephrine were not altered by diabetes; however, venular responses were decreased at two months. The restrictiveness of the vascular membrane to various dextran fractions was dramatically decreased in the diabetic animals at two months. Histamine did not alter micro-vascular leakage in the diabetic as it did in the normal hamsters. These studies indicate that microvascular alterations, venular dilation, and increased permeability to large molecules occur in the diabetic hamster within two months after the induction of diabetes.

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