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Diabetes Channel
Reported April 28, 2005

Preventing Brain Damage After Diabetic Coma

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A byproduct of glucose could be key in preventing brain damage after patients with diabetes have severe insulin reactions that result in a coma. The research was done on rats, but investigators believe the findings are so positive that they are ready to advance to a clinical trial in humans.

Glucose is a form of sugar that serves as the body’s primary fuel. Abnormally low blood glucose is called hypoglycemia, and severe hypoglycemia can cause coma. Between 2 percent and 15 percent of people with diabetes will have at least one episode of hypoglycemia so severe that they're left unconscious. The standard treatment is to give the patient glucose. This restores consciousness, but may not prevent brain damage and cognitive impairment.

Researchers from San Francisco VA Medical Center looked at the effectiveness of pyruvate for a diabetic coma. Pyruvate is a naturally occurring, non-toxic byproduct of glucose. Pyruvate circulates through the brain and body at low concentrations. Previous research has shown when brain neurons are deprived of pyruvate, they starve and die. The current study focused on using 100-times the normal blood level of pyruvate to see if it could penetrate the brain and effectively prevent brain damage.

For the study, researchers had male rats experience hypoglycemia and a subsequent coma. This coma was determined by monitoring the rats’ brainwaves. One group was given glucose plus pyruvate while another group received glucose only. A third group acted as a control group. Using a maze test, the rats’ memory and learning abilities were tested six weeks later. Researchers found the rats who had pyruvate with glucose did not show any cognitive deficits compared to the other groups. Subsequent brain tissue evaluations also found the rats given glucose plus pyruvate had 70-percent to 90-percent less neuronal death than the rats given just glucose.

Study authors conclude this research sets the stage for future research on pyruvate as a treatment for hypoglycemia.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.

SOURCE: Diabetes, 2005;54:1452-1458

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