A diabetic syndrome closely resembling human IDDM has been induced in rats of specific pathogen-free origin by a combination of thymectomy and irradiation, with an overall incidence (10 wk postirradiation) in female rats of 34% for acute disease and 47% for islet lesions. Males were slightly more susceptible than females. Clinical features of the syndrome included hyperglycemia, insulinopenia, ketosis, and lipidemia, and corresponding islet pathology ranged from diffuse atrophy to focal atrophy and insulitis. Onset was usually acute, and the disease fatal unless early insulin therapy was initiated. Lymphocytic thyroiditis also was observed in a proportion of thymectomized and irradiated rats (49% in females) over the same period but with no apparent correlation to the occurrence of diabetes. A significant decrease in the incidence of disease was found in thymectomized and irradiated rats of conventional origin when compared with genetically identical specific pathogen-free rats, implicating a role for environmental factors in disease susceptibility. Diabetes inducement also was found to be strain related but not RT1u dependent. Both clinical signs and islet lesions were inhibited by early reconstitution of thymectomized and irradiated animals with syngeneic lymphoid cells from normal donors. Islet lesions and glucose intolerance could be transferred to syngeneic recipients by concanavalin A–activated lymphoid cells from acute diabetic donors. The close similarities between this experimental syndrome induced by immunological manipulation and the clinical condition in humans provide further evidence for an immune-mediated pathogenesis for IDDM.

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