Diabetes mellitus spontaneously develops in certain sublines of non-obese Chinese hamsters, and the diabetic L-subline is known for subnormal pancreatic insulin release in vitro. The cause of the secretory defect is unknown.

Freeze-dried pancreas sections from genetically diabetic Chinese hamsters and normal controls were subjected to proton bombardment and the concentration of 15 elements in B cells and acini was calculated from the X-rays emitted. Diabetic B cells contained significantly less Al (−61%) and significantly more Cu (+92 %), Mg (+6 %) and Rb (+13 %) than their normal counterparts. The diabetic acini showed similar, significant changes. The molar ratio between K and Na was about 10 in endocrine as well as exocrine pancreas from both groups of animals, implying that neither sample preparation nor irradiation had induced significant diffusive changes.

In conclusion, the high K/Na ratio suggests that the diabetic B cell has a well-functioning Na+/K+ pump. However, significant and parallel changes in Al-, Cu-, Mg- and Rb-levels were found in both the B cells and acinar portion of the diabetic pancreas. It is not clear whether these elemental changes cause the islet secretory defect or result from it.

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