Aims/hypothesis: Low birthweight is associated with a high risk of diabetes, but there are no reports discussing birthweight and pancreatic tissues in humans. The purpose of this study was to examine the correlation between birthweight and beta and alpha cell mass in humans. Methods: Sixty-four Japanese adults with and without diabetes who underwent pancreatectomy and were able to recall their weight history including birthweight were included. Pancreatic tissues were stained for insulin and glucagon, and fractional beta cell area (BCA) and alpha cell area (ACA) were quantified. Islet size and density and beta cell replication were also quantified and their associations with birthweight were evaluated. Results: In participants without diabetes, there was a weak positive correlation between birthweight and BCA (R = 0.34, p = 0.03). The group with a history of childhood obesity, but not the group with a history of obesity in adulthood only, showed higher BCA compared with those without a history of obesity (1.78 ± 0.74% vs 0.99 ± 0.53%, p = 0.01), and the correlation coefficient between birthweight and BCA increased after excluding those with a history of childhood obesity (R = 0.51, p < 0.01). In those with diabetes, there was no correlation between birthweight and BCA. No correlation was found between birthweight and ACA in either those with or without diabetes. Conclusions/interpretation: Birthweight and beta, but not alpha, cell mass are positively correlated in non-diabetic adults, and a history of childhood obesity may affect beta cell mass. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].
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