Increased blood perfusion of pancreatic islets is seen during various conditions of increased demand for insulin secretion. Pregnancy confers an increased need for insulin secretion, met by increased islet mass and volume as well as a decreased threshold for glucose-induced insulin secretion. In the present study, whole pancreatic and islet blood flow were studied with a microsphere technique in Wistar rats on days 15, 18 and 20 of pregnancy and days 2 and 7 post-partum. There were no changes in total pancreatic blood flow during pregnancy and the first post-partum week. Total blood perfusion through islet tissue expressed as flow per weight of whole pancreas was higher at day 15 of pregnancy. When islet blood flow was expressed per gram of islet tissue there was a decrease at day 18 of pregnancy. This decrease of islet blood flow was concomitant to a short-lived increase of the islet mass at the end of pregnancy. We conclude that upregulation of insulin output during late pregnancy does not specifically include increased net blood perfusion through the islets. One possible reason for this might be lack of synchronization between the proliferation of endocrine cells and angiogenesis, resulting in a relative decrease in islet vascular density in the islets.
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