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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 1991 Nov;11(6):1006-14.

Insulin attenuates ischemic brain damage independent of its hypoglycemic effect.

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Department of Pathology, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Insulin, an endogenously produced circulating peptide that enters the brain, has been shown to reduce ischemic brain and spinal cord damage in several animal models. Because of its potential clinical use in humans, the present study was undertaken to test the hypotheses that (a) survival and regional ischemic brain necrosis are improved by insulin; (b) insulin requires concomitant hypoglycemia to exert its neuroprotective effect; (c) insulin is still neuroprotective with delayed administration after an episode of postischemic hypotension; and (d) insulin is beneficial after normoglycemic, as well as hyperglycemic ischemia. Rats were subjected to 10.5 min two-vessel occlusion forebrain ischemia followed by 30 min of hypotension to increase the infarction rate. Insulin administered concomitantly with glucose significantly reduced the seizure rate, as well as cortical and striatal neuronal necrosis below that seen in untreated animals. Neuroprotection was seen whether insulin was given before or after a 30-min episode of postischemic hypotension. Insulin reduced pan-necrosis in addition to selective neuronal necrosis: The infarction rate was reduced in the cerebral cortex, thalamus, and substantia nigra pars reticulata. Normoglycemic ischemia produced only selective neuronal necrosis, but a beneficial effect on structural damage was also seen. The results indicate that insulin acts directly on the brain, independent of hypoglycemia, to reduce ischemic brain necrosis. Possible direct CNS mechanisms of action include an effect on central insulin receptors mediating inhibitory neuromodulation, an effect on central neurotransmitters, or a growth factor effect of insulin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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