1. Oxygen free radicals have been suggested to be a contributory factor in complications of diabetes mellitus. There are many reports indicating the changes in parameters of oxidative stress in diabetes mellitus. In this study we aimed to identify whether oxidative stress occurs in the liver and pancreas in the initial stages of development of diabetes.

2. We therefore investigated the lipid peroxide level (thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances, TBARS) and activities of antioxidant enzymes [superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and glutathione peroxidase] in liver and pancreas of control and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats at various stages of development of diabetes.

3. Male Sprague—Dawley rats were divided into two groups: group I, control (n = 42) and group II, diabetic (n = 42). Each group was further subdivided into seven groups consisting of six rats each. Rats in these subgroups were studied at weekly intervals (0 to 6 weeks). Plasma glucose levels, TBARS levels and activities of antioxidant enzymes were measured in liver and pancreas at various time intervals.

4. There was a significant (P < 0.05) and progressive increase in TBARS levels of liver and pancreas in the diabetic group. Total SOD and Cu—Zn-SOD activity increased (P < 0.05) with progression of diabetes while Mn-SOD activity showed no significant change in either tissue. Catalase and glutathione peroxidase activities increased significantly (P < 0.05) in liver and pancreas.

5. Immunohistochemical study of pancreatic islet revealed a decrease in the expression of insulin with progression of diabetes. However, glucagon and somatostatin showed an increase in immunoreactivity and a difference in their distribution pattern.

6. The findings of the present study suggest that oxidative stress starts at early onset of diabetes mellitus and increases progressively. In conclusion, the structural damage to these tissues or complications of diabetes mellitus may be due to oxidative stress.

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