Research Article

Defective blood glucose counter-regulation in diabetics is a selective form of autonomic neuropathy.

Br Med J 1977; 2 doi: (Published 10 December 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;2:1527
  1. L V Campbell,
  2. E W Kraegen,
  3. L Lazarus


    Administration of a low-dose insulin infusion to normal subjects results in a mild drop in blood glucose concentration (1.1 mmol/1 (20 mg/100 ml)) and the resetting of the basal glucose at the lower concentration. Clinical hypoglycaemia does not develop, and there is a significant release of glucagon, growth hormone, and cortisol. A similar infusion in insulin-requiring diabetics results in hypoglycaemia accompanied by a release of growth hormone and cortisol but no significant release of glucagon. Subsequently giving arginine to these patients results in a significant release of glucagon, indicating that the alpha cell is intact and can respond to local, direct stimulation. In one patient the defect in glucagon response to impending hypoglycaemia developed after two years' insulin treatment. This type of dissociated response' of the alpha cell has been reported in animals after denervation of the pancreas, and insulin-requiring diabetics may develop a selective form of autonomic neuropathy affecting the vagal control of glucagon release.