Elksnis A, Martinell M, Eriksson O, Espes D
Front. Physiol. 10 (-) 107 [2019-02-13; online 2019-02-13]
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a complex and heterogeneous disease which affects millions of people worldwide. The classification of diabetes is at an interesting turning point and there have been several recent reports on sub-classification of T2D based on phenotypical and metabolic characteristics. An important, and perhaps so far underestimated, factor in the pathophysiology of T2D is the role of oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species (ROS). There are multiple pathways for excessive ROS formation in T2D and in addition, beta-cells have an inherent deficit in the capacity to cope with oxidative stress. ROS formation could be causal, but also contribute to a large number of the metabolic defects in T2D, including beta-cell dysfunction and loss. Currently, our knowledge on beta-cell mass is limited to autopsy studies and based on comparisons with healthy controls. The combined evidence suggests that beta-cell mass is unaltered at onset of T2D but that it declines progressively. In order to better understand the pathophysiology of T2D, to identify and evaluate novel treatments, there is a need for in vivo techniques able to quantify beta-cell mass. Positron emission tomography holds great potential for this purpose and can in addition map metabolic defects, including ROS activity, in specific tissue compartments. In this review, we highlight the different phenotypical features of T2D and how metabolic defects impact oxidative stress and ROS formation. In addition, we review the literature on alterations of beta-cell mass in T2D and discuss potential techniques to assess beta-cell mass and metabolic defects in vivo.