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Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006 Mar;9(2):124-30.

Molecular aspects of insulin therapy in critically ill patients.

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Department of Diabetology-Endocrinology-Nutrition, Bichat Hospital, Paris, France.



This review provides an overview of molecular mechanisms involved in beneficial effects of insulin in insulin resistant critically ill patients.


Intense insulin therapy reduced morbidity in critically ill patients. Insulin acts by two major molecular pathways: reduction of the inflammation process induced by free fatty acid excess in tissues and decrease of reactive oxygen species production induced by hyperglycemia. By these actions, insulin preserves mitochondrial function, enhances adiponectin secretion and probably modulates AMP-activated protein kinase activity, which in turn depletes lipid depots in tissues and restores glucose uptake and oxidation. Furthermore, it was recently established that insulin prevents microcirculation alteration and subsequent cellular hypoxia by reducing inducible nitric oxide synthase expression and activity in the endothelium. So, insulin beneficial effects in critically ill patients are dependent on metabolic and non-metabolic molecular pathways.


Critically ill patients requiring intensive care for more than a few days have a high risk of death. A tight control of glucose levels by intense insulin therapy reduced morbidity in critically ill patients. Unraveling the molecular mechanisms of insulin will provide new insights into the pathogenesis of multiple organ failure and will allow novel therapeutic strategies to manage patients needing intensive care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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