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Adaptation in brain glucose uptake following recurrent hypoglycemia

Boyle, P.J., Nagy, R.J., O'Connor, A.M., Kempers, S.F., Yeo, R.A., Qualls, C.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 1994 v.91 no.20 pp. 9352-9356
humans, glucose, brain, blood glucose, nutrient uptake, hypoglycemia
Brain glucose metabolism is impaired during hypoglycemia, but, if sustained, brain metabolism reverts to normal in animal models-data in man are lacking. We tested the hypothesis that adaptations occur to allow maintenance of normal rates of brain glucose uptake (BGU) following recurrent hypoglycemia in man. Twelve normal humans were studied over 4 days. On the initial day, arterial plasma glucose concentrations were decreased from 4.72 to 2.50 mmol/liter in five 0.56 mmol/liter steps. Cerebral blood flow, brain arteriovenous glucose difference, BGU, and cognitive function were quantitated at each step. BGU was initially impaired at the 3.61 mmol/liter glucose step (P = 0.04) and was antedated by increments in epinephrine that began at 4.16 mmol/liter (P = 0.03). The onset of hypoglycemic symptoms occurred during the 3.61 mmol/liter glucose step (P = 0.02), whereas tests of cognitive function generally deteriorated at the 3.05 mmol/liter step (P < 0.05). During the next 56 hr, mean glucose concentrations were kept at 2.9 +/- 0.1 mmol/liter and reached normal only during meals. The stepped clamp protocol was repeated beginning at 4.16 mmol/liter on the last day. No decrement in BGU was observed at any step; cognitive function was preserved until significantly lower glucose concentrations on the final day relative to the first (P = 0.04). Subjects remained asymptomatic of hypoglycemia until they reached a glucose concentration of 2.50 mmol/liter (P < 0.001 vs. day 1), while initial increments in all counterregulatory hormones were forestalled to lower glucose steps than on day 1. Therefore, adaptations occur that allow normal BGU and cerebral function to be maintained during recurrent systemic hypoglycemia. Counterregulatory events that should result in symptoms of hypoglycemia and increments in endogenous glucose production are prevented until extremely subnormal glucose concentrations.