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Transl Stroke Res. 2015 Aug;6(4):264-75. doi: 10.1007/s12975-015-0409-7. Epub 2015 Jun 5.

Intranasal Insulin and Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 as Neuroprotectants in Acute Ischemic Stroke.

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Department of Neurology, Division of Cerebrovascular Diseases, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, Palmer 127, Boston, MA, 02215, USA,


Treatment options for stroke remain limited. Neuroprotective therapies, in particular, have invariably failed to yield the expected benefit in stroke patients, despite robust theoretical and mechanistic background and promising animal data. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) play a pivotal role in critical brain functions, such as energy homeostasis, neuronal growth, and differentiation. They may exhibit neuroprotective properties in acute ischemic stroke based upon their vasodilatory, anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic effects, as well as improvements of functional connectivity, neuronal metabolism, neurotransmitter regulation, and remyelination. Intranasally administered insulin has demonstrated a benefit for prevention of cognitive decline in older people, and IGF-1 has shown potential benefit to improve functional outcomes in animal models of acute ischemic stroke. The intranasal route presents a feasible, tolerable, safe, and particularly effective administration route, bypassing the blood-brain barrier and maximizing distribution to the central nervous system (CNS), without the disadvantages of systemic side effects and first-pass metabolism. This review summarizes the neuroprotective potential of intranasally administered insulin and IGF-1 in stroke patients. We present the theoretical background and pathophysiologic mechanisms, animal and human studies of intranasal insulin and IGF-1, and the safety and feasibility of intranasal route for medication administration to the CNS.

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