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Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009 Apr;87(4):300-9. doi: 10.1139/Y09-014.

Therapeutic effects of Nigella sativa on chronic HAART-induced hyperinsulinemia in rats.

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Department of Pharmacology, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, 1430 Tulane Avenue, SL-83, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


Prolonged use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is associated with insulin resistance in HIV-1-positive patients. Small animal models that recapitulate the long-term effects of HAART may facilitate the identification of therapeutic agents to suppress these side effects. We investigated the protective effects of black seed oil (BSO) from Nigella sativa in Sprague-Dawley rats treated with a daily HAART regimen for 7 months. The antiretroviral drugs, consisting of nelfinavir (200 mg/kg), zidovudine (50 mg/kg), and efavirenz (20 mg/kg), were mixed with diet with or without BSO (400 microL/kg) supplementation. Significant increases in insulin and C-peptide levels were observed in HAART-treated groups, and concomitant BSO treatment reduced this hyperinsulinemia. Interestingly, HAART-treated rats showed reduced size of pancreatic islets that was not seen in BSO-exposed rats. In vitro studies showed that nelfinavir, alone and in combination with HAART, induced oxidative stress and decreased glucose-induced insulin production in INS-1 cells. Suppressed insulin production was restored in cells coexposed to either BSO or thymoquinone. Our findings demonstrated that chronic HAART may increase serum insulin levels by dysregulating both insulin production by beta cells and insulin action at the periphery. These deleterious effects may be prevented by dietary supplementation with BSO.

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