A technique is described for the measurement of muscle capillary basement membranes by electron microscopic examination of needle biopsies of the quadriceps muscle. With this procedure it has been possible to obtain an objective evaluation of the significance of capillary basement membrane hypertrophy in diabetic microangiopathy. The results of such studies of muscle capillary basement membrane thickness in 50 normal, 51 diabetic, and 30 prediabetic patients have demonstrated the following. First, that the average capillary basement membrane width of diabetic patients is over twice that of normal subjects; moreover, such basement membrane thickening is a very constant finding among overtly diabetic patients, in that approximately 98% of individual diabetic subjects demonstrated this lesion. The degree of basement membrane thickening in diabetic patients is, however, unrelated to age, weight, severity, or duration of diabetes. Second, capillary basement membrane hypertrophy has been found in approximately 50% of patients who are genetically prediabetic but who have not yet demonstrated evidence of the manifest carbohydrate disturbances of diabetes mellitus. Third, in contrast to the results obtained in genetically diabetic patients, subjects with severe hyperglycemia due to causes other than genetic diabetes only infrequently show basement membrane hypertrophy.
M. D. Siperstein, R. H. Unger, L. L. Madison