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Keywords:

  • biological models;
  • disease progression;
  • insulin resistance;
  • islets of Langerhans;
  • physiopathology;
  • noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus

Abstract

Insulin resistance and β-cell dysfunction have important roles in the pathogenesis and evolution of type 2 diabetes. The development of precise methods to measure these factors has helped us to define the relationship between them and evidence is reviewed that changes in insulin sensitivity are compensated by inverse changes in β-cell responsiveness such that the product of insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion (the disposition index) remains constant. While the disposition index promises to be a useful tool to predict individuals at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, other factors that contribute to β-cell dysfunction and mark disease onset and progression include impairments in proinsulin processing and insulin secretion, decreased β-cell mass and islet amyloid deposition. Emerging data indicate that anti-diabetic agents, such as the thiazolidinediones that simultaneously target insulin resistance and β-cell dysfunction, may have a beneficial impact on disease onset and progression. Several landmark clinical studies are underway to investigate if their initial promise is supported by data from large-scale trials.