Cross-Talk Between Iron Metabolism and Diabetes

José Manuel Fernández-Real, Abel López-Bermejo, and Wifredo Ricart


Diabetes. 2002;51(8) 

In This Article

Iron and Beta-cell Function

Recent in vitro studies have shown that H-ferritin mRNA is four-to eightfold higher in rat islets treated with 20 mmol/l glucose than in islets treated with 1 mmol/l glucose.[27] The potential reason for the increased ferritin in the -cell is that ferritin exhibits antioxidant properties and the -cell is particularly sensitive to oxygen radicals. This high amount of ferritin can explain why iron is preferentially retained in the -cell. In fact, iron deposition in islets, albeit variable, is restricted to -cells.[28]

An increase in -cell mass was demonstrated in a small number of nondiabetic or mildly diabetic patients with iron overload.[28] In agreement with this increase in -cell mass, raised basal and stimulated C-peptide secretion were observed in type 2 diabetic patients with increased serum ferritin concentration. Furthermore, significantly lowered C-peptide secretion was found after phlebotomy-induced iron depletion, suggesting increased -cell insulin sensitivity.[15]