Glucose intolerance and insulin deficiency are common features of cystic fibrosis (CF) , with nearly half of adult CF patients developing CF-related diabetes (CFRD) , but the underlying pathophysiology remains poorly understood. Extensive destruction of the exocrine pancreas occurs in most CF patients. However, islets are still readily detectable, suggesting β cell loss is not the major driver of impaired insulin release. Islets are normally highly vascularized, and islet capillaries are the source of key growth factors that maintain β cell health and function. Islet capillary morphology is altered in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, with increased capillary density and/or vessel thickening being observed. In the present study we aimed to determine whether islet capillaries are also disrupted in CF/CFRD. Pancreas sections (8 control and 8 CF/CFRD, age-matched) were stained for CD31, a marker of vascular endothelial cells. Islets in microscopy images were manually identified (17.8±2.8[SEM] per sample) and CD31-positive area within islet and exocrine was quantified. Mean islet cross-sectional area did not significantly differ between CF and non-CF pancreas specimens. CD31 positive area, expressed as a fraction of islet area, was significantly decreased in CF pancreas specimens (2.8±0.9% vs. 6.1±1.2%; p=0.05) . Islet capillary density (the number of CD31+ objects normalized to islet area) was also decreased (0.88±0.17x103/μm2 vs. 3.8±0.57x103/μm2; p=0.0004) , as was exocrine tissue CD31 positive area (0.17±0.03% vs. 1.5±0.23%; p<0.0001) . Our data demonstrate a significant deficit in islet and pancreatic vascularity in CF/CFRD. This contrasts markedly with the increase in islet capillary density seen in both T1D and T2D and underscores the presence of distinct features of islet morphology that characterize CF. Given that islet capillaries support β-cell function and survival, their loss likely contributes to impaired β-cell function.


J.J.Castillo: None. A.Aplin: None. R.Akter: None. R.L.Hull-meichle: Research Support; Casma Therapeutics.


Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Fellowship (CASTIL20F0)

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