Increased Brain Transport and Metabolism of Acetate in Hypoglycemia Unawareness

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Abstract

Context:

Intensive insulin therapy reduces the risk for long-term complications in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) but increases the risk for hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure (HAAF), a syndrome that includes hypoglycemia unawareness and defective glucose counterregulation (reduced epinephrine and glucagon responses to hypoglycemia).

Objective:

The objective of the study was to address mechanisms underlying HAAF, we investigated whether nonglucose fuels such as acetate, a monocarboxylic acid (MCA), can support cerebral energetics during hypoglycemia in T1DM individuals with hypoglycemia unawareness.

Design:

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to measure brain transport and metabolism of [2-13C]acetate under hypoglycemic conditions.

Setting:

The study was conducted at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation Hospital Research Unit, Yale Magnetic Resonance Research Center.

Patients and Other Participants:

T1DM participants with moderate to severe hypoglycemia unawareness (n = 7), T1DM controls without hypoglycemia unawareness (n = 5), and healthy nondiabetic controls (n = 10) participated in the study.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

Brain acetate concentrations, 13C percent enrichment of glutamine and glutamate, and absolute rates of acetate metabolism were measured.

Results:

Absolute rates of acetate metabolism in the cerebral cortex were 1.5-fold higher among T1DM/unaware participants compared with both control groups during hypoglycemia (P = .001). Epinephrine levels of T1DM/unaware subjects were significantly lower than both control groups (P < .05). Epinephrine levels were inversely correlated with levels of cerebral acetate use across the entire study population (P < .01), suggesting a relationship between up-regulated brain MCA use and HAAF.

Conclusion:

Increased MCA transport and metabolism among T1DM individuals with hypoglycemia unawareness may be a mechanism to supply the brain with nonglucose fuels during episodes of acute hypoglycemia and may contribute to the syndrome of hypoglycemia unawareness, independent of diabetes.

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