Cerebral glycogen in humans following acute and recurrent hypoglycemia: Implications on a role in hypoglycemia unawareness

Gulin Oz, Mauro DiNuzzo, Anjali Kumar, Amir Moheet, Ameer Khowaja, Kristine Kubisiak, Lynn E. Eberly, Elizabeth R. Seaquist

Supercompensated brain glycogen levels may contribute to the development of hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure (HAAF) following recurrent hypoglycemia (RH) by providing energy for the brain during subsequent periods of hypoglycemia. To assess the role of glycogen supercompensation in the generation of HAAF, we estimated the level of brain glycogen following RH and acute hypoglycemia (AH). After undergoing 3 hyperinsulinemic, euglycemic and 3 hyperinsulinemic, hypoglycemic clamps (RH) on separate occasions at least 1 month apart, five healthy volunteers received [1-13C]glucose intravenously over 80+ h while maintaining euglycemia. 13C-glycogen levels in the occipital lobe were measured by 13C magnetic resonance spectroscopy at ∼8, 20, 32, 44, 56, 68 and 80 h at 4 T and glycogen levels estimated by fitting the data with a biophysical model that takes into account the tiered glycogen structure. Similarly, prior 13C-glycogen data obtained following a single hypoglycemic episode (AH) were fitted with the same model. Glycogen levels did not significantly increase after RH relative to after euglycemia, while they increased by ∼16% after AH relative to after euglycemia. These data suggest that glycogen supercompensation may be blunted with repeated hypoglycemic episodes. A causal relationship between glycogen supercompensation and generation of HAAF remains to be established.

Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism

DOI: 10.1177/0271678X16678240

This is a collaborative paper, which is not part of the main scientific output of the project although the support of the EU funding has been acknowledged.

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