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Essential fatty acid treatment — effects on nerve conduction, polyol pathway and axonal transport in streptozotocin diabetic rats


This study was designed to examine the effect of dietary supplementation with essential fatty acids (evening primrose oil — 5% weight:weight added to the diet) on acute neurophysiological and neurochemical defects in streptozotocin-diabetic rats. Diabetic rats, which were not given evening primrose oil, showed highly significant elevations of nerve sorbitol and fructose combined with a depletion of nerve myo-inositol. In those animals there was also a 40% reduction (p<0.02) in the accumulation of axonally transported substance P-like immunoreactivity proximal to a 12 h sciatic nerve ligature together with reduced motor nerve conduction velocity (13% [p<0.001] and 20% [p<0.001] in two separate experiments). Treatment of other diabetic rats with evening primrose oil prevented completely the development of the motor nerve conduction velocity deficit without affecting sorbitol, fructose or myo-inositol levels or the deficit in axonal transport of substance P. In a second experiment, treatment of diabetic rats with evening primrose oil was associated with significant attenuation of the conduction velocity deficit, but not complete prevention.


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Tomlinson, D.R., Robinson, J.P., Compton, A.M. et al. Essential fatty acid treatment — effects on nerve conduction, polyol pathway and axonal transport in streptozotocin diabetic rats. Diabetologia 32, 655–659 (1989).

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Key words

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • diabetic neuropathies
  • essential fatty acids
  • axonal flow
  • substance P
  • nerve conduction
  • myoinositol
  • sorbitol
  • streptozotocin
  • rat