Insulin treatment normalizes retinal neuroinflammation but not markers of synapse loss in diabetic rats

Dustin R. Masser, Heather D. VanGuilder Starkey, Georgina V. Bixler, Wendy Dunton, Sarah K. Bronson, Willard M. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in developed countries, and a majority of patients with type I and type II diabetes will develop some degree of vision loss despite blood glucose control regimens. The effects of different insulin therapy regimens on early metabolic, inflammatory and neuronal retinal disease processes such as retinal neuroinflammation and synapse loss have not been extensively investigated. This study compared 3 months non-diabetic and streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic Sprague Dawley rats. Diabetic rats received either no insulin treatment, systemic insulin treatment beginning after 1 week uncontrolled diabetes (early intervention, 11 weeks on insulin), or after 1.5 months uncontrolled diabetes (late intervention, 6 weeks on insulin). Changes in both whole animal metabolic and retinal inflammatory markers were prevented by early initiation of insulin treatment. These metabolic and inflammatory changes were also normalized by the later insulin intervention. Insulin treatment begun 1 week after diabetes induction ameliorated loss of retinal synapse markers. Synapse markers and presumably synapse numbers were equivalent in uncontrolled diabetes and when insulin treatment began at 1.5 months of diabetes. These findings are in agreement with previous demonstrations that retinal synapses are lost within 1 month of uncontrolled diabetes and suggest that synapses are not regained with glycemic control and restoration of insulin signaling. However, increased expression of metabolic and inflammatory markers associated with diabetes was reversed in both groups of insulin treatment. This study also emphasizes the need for insulin treatment groups in diabetic retinopathy studies to provide a more faithful modeling of the human condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-106
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Eye Research
StatePublished - Aug 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Insulin treatment normalizes retinal neuroinflammation but not markers of synapse loss in diabetic rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this