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J Neurosurg. 1995 Feb;82(2):262-8.

Insulin reduction of cerebral infarction due to transient focal ischemia.

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Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Insulin has recently been shown to ameliorate damage in models of global brain ischemia. To determine whether insulin is also neuroprotective in focal ischemia, 20 rats were given 2 to 3 IU/kg insulin and 10 did not receive treatment prior to normothermic transient middle cerebral artery occlusion for 2 hours at a blood pressure of 60 mm Hg. To further elucidate whether infarction volume is influenced by variations in blood glucose levels within the physiological range, blood glucose was raised in 10 of the insulin-treated animals to levels comparable with the untreated controls. At 1-week survival, damage was assessed using quantitative neuropathological examination of 25 coronal planes. It was found that preischemic insulin lowered the mean intraischemic blood glucose level from 8.4 +/- 0.2 mM (mu +/- standard error of the mean) in the control group to 3.4 +/- 0.2 mM and reduced total damage (atrophy plus cortical and striatal necrosis), expressed as the percentage of the normal hemisphere, from a control of 28.5% +/- 2.9% to 14.5% +/- 1.6% (p < 0.005). Coadministration of glucose and insulin resulted in a mean intraischemic blood glucose level of 10.1 +/- 0.5 mM, with 27.0% +/- 2.4% total damage (p = 0.96, compared with control). Total ischemic damage showed an independent correlation with blood glucose levels (r = 0.67, p = 0.0018). The findings indicate that insulin benefits transient focal ischemia and that reducing the blood glucose from 8 to 9 mM to the low-normal range of 3 to 4 mM with insulin dramatically reduces subsequent infarction. The data suggest that the neuroprotective mechanism of insulin action in focal middle cerebral artery occlusion is mediated predominantly via alterations in blood glucose levels. In comparison to global ischemia, focal ischemia appears to show only a minor direct central nervous system effect of insulin. In clinical situations in which transient focal ischemia to the hemisphere can be anticipated, insulin-induced hypoglycemia of a mild degree may be beneficial.

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