Effects of acetyl-L-carnitine in diabetic neuropathy and other geriatric disorders

Aging Clin Exp Res. 2018 Feb;30(2):133-138. doi: 10.1007/s40520-017-0770-3. Epub 2017 May 22.


A long history of diabetes mellitus and increasing age are associated with the onset of diabetic neuropathy, a painful and highly disabling complication with a prevalence peaking at 50% among elderly diabetic patients. Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is a molecule derived from the acetylation of carnitine in the mitochondria that has an essential role in energy production. It has recently been proposed as a therapy to improve the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. ALC is widely distributed in mammalian tissues, including the brain, blood-brain barrier, brain neurons, and astrocytes. Aside from its metabolic activity, ALC has demonstrated cytoprotective, antioxidant, and antiapoptotic effects in the nervous system. It exerts an analgesic action by reducing the concentration of glutamate in the synapses. It facilitates nerve regeneration and damage repair after primary trauma: its positive effects on metabolism promote the synthesis, fluidity, and functionality of neuronal membranes, increase protein synthesis, and improve the axonal transport of neurofilament proteins and tubulin. It also amplifies nerve growth factor responsiveness, an effect that is believed to enhance overall neurite growth. ALC has been proposed for the treatment of various neurological and psychiatric diseases, such as mood disorders and depression, dementias, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease, because synaptic energy states and mitochondrial dysfunction are core factors in their pathogenesis.

Keywords: Acetyl-L-carnitine; Analgesia; Diabetic neuropathy; Neurotrophic effect.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / pharmacology
  • Acetylcarnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Pain / drug therapy*


  • Analgesics
  • Acetylcarnitine