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FASEB J. 2010 Jul;24(7):2443-53. doi: 10.1096/fj.09-152678. Epub 2010 Mar 24.

An animal model of spontaneous metabolic syndrome: Nile grass rat.

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Angiogenesis Laboratory, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a prevalent and complex disease, characterized by the variable coexistence of obesity, dyslipidemia, hyperinsulinaemia, and hypertension. The alarming rise in the prevalence of metabolic disorders makes it imperative to innovate preventive or therapeutic measures for MetS and its complications. However, the elucidation of the pathogenesis of MetS has been hampered by the lack of realistic models. For example, the existing animal models of MetS, i.e., genetically engineered rodents, imitate certain aspects of the disease, while lacking other important components. Defining the natural course of MetS in a spontaneous animal model of the disease would be desirable. Here, we introduce the Nile grass rat (NGR), Arvicanthis niloticus, as a novel model of MetS. Studies of over 1100 NGRs in captivity, fed normal chow, revealed that most of these animals spontaneously develop dyslipidemia (P<0.01), and hyperglycemia (P<0.01) by 1 yr of age. Further characterization showed that the diabetic rats develop liver steatosis, abdominal fat accumulation, nephropathy, atrophy of pancreatic islets of Langerhans, fatty streaks in the aorta, and hypertension (P<0.01). Diabetic NGRs in the early phase of the disease develop hyperinsulinemia, and show a strong inverse correlation between plasma adiponectin and HbA1c levels (P<0.01). These data indicate that the NGR is a valuable, spontaneous model for exploring the etiology and pathophysiology of MetS as well as its various complications.

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