Intranasal insulin therapy reverses hippocampal dendritic injury and cognitive impairment in a model of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders in EcoHIV-infected mice

Boe Hyun Kim, Jennifer Kelschenbach, Alejandra Borjabad, Eran Hadas, Hongxia He, Mary Jane Potash, Michael T. Nedelcovych, Rana Rais, Norman Haughey, Justin Charles McArthur, Barbara Slusher, David J. Volsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


OBJECTIVE: Almost half of HIV-positive people on antiretroviral therapy have demonstrable mild neurocognitive impairment (HIV-NCI), even when virologically suppressed. Intranasal insulin therapy improves cognition in Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. Here we tested intranasal insulin therapy in a model of HIV-NCI in EcoHIV-infected conventional mice. DESIGN AND METHODS: Insulin pharmacokinetics following intranasal administration to mice was determined by ELISA. Mice were inoculated with EcoHIV to cause NCI; 23 days or 3 months after infection they were treated daily for 9 days with intranasal insulin (2.4 IU/mouse) and examined for NCI in behavioral tests and HIV burdens by quantitative PCR. Some animals were tested for hippocampal neuronal integrity by immunostaining and expression of neuronal function-related genes by real time-quantitative PCR. The effect of insulin treatment discontinuation on cognition and neuropathology was also examined. RESULTS: Intranasal insulin administration to mice resulted in μIU/ml levels of insulin in cerebrospinal fluid with a half-life of about 2 h, resembling pharmacokinetic parameters of patients receiving 40 IU. Intranasal insulin treatment starting 23 days or 3 months after infection completely reversed NCI in mice. Murine NCI correlated with reductions in hippocampal dendritic arbors and downregulation of neuronal function genes; intranasal insulin reversed these changes coincident with restoration of cognitive acuity, but they returned within 24 h of treatment cessation. Intranasal insulin treatment reduced brain HIV DNA when started 23 but not 90 days after infection. CONCLUSION: Our preclinical studies support the use of intranasal insulin administration for treatment of HIV-NCI and suggest that some dendritic injury in this condition is reversible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)973-984
Number of pages12
JournalAIDS (London, England)
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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