Bioelectronic modulation of carotid sinus nerve activity in the rat: a potential therapeutic approach for type 2 diabetes

Diabetologia. 2018 Mar;61(3):700-710. doi: 10.1007/s00125-017-4533-7. Epub 2018 Jan 14.


Aims/hypothesis: A new class of treatments termed bioelectronic medicines are now emerging that aim to target individual nerve fibres or specific brain circuits in pathological conditions to repair lost function and reinstate a healthy balance. Carotid sinus nerve (CSN) denervation has been shown to improve glucose homeostasis in insulin-resistant and glucose-intolerant rats; however, these positive effects from surgery appear to diminish over time and are heavily caveated by the severe adverse effects associated with permanent loss of chemosensory function. Herein we characterise the ability of a novel bioelectronic application, classified as kilohertz frequency alternating current (KHFAC) modulation, to suppress neural signals within the CSN of rodents.

Methods: Rats were fed either a chow or high-fat/high-sucrose (HFHSu) diet (60% lipid-rich diet plus 35% sucrose drinking water) over 14 weeks. Neural interfaces were bilaterally implanted in the CSNs and attached to an external pulse generator. The rats were then randomised to KHFAC or sham modulation groups. KHFAC modulation variables were defined acutely by respiratory and cardiac responses to hypoxia (10% O2 + 90% N2). Insulin sensitivity was evaluated periodically through an ITT and glucose tolerance by an OGTT.

Results: KHFAC modulation of the CSN, applied over 9 weeks, restored insulin sensitivity (constant of the insulin tolerance test [KITT] HFHSu sham, 2.56 ± 0.41% glucose/min; KITT HFHSu KHFAC, 5.01 ± 0.52% glucose/min) and glucose tolerance (AUC HFHSu sham, 1278 ± 20.36 mmol/l × min; AUC HFHSu KHFAC, 1054.15 ± 62.64 mmol/l × min) in rat models of type 2 diabetes. Upon cessation of KHFAC, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance returned to normal values within 5 weeks.

Conclusions/interpretation: KHFAC modulation of the CSN improves metabolic control in rat models of type 2 diabetes. These positive outcomes have significant translational potential as a novel therapeutic modality for the purpose of treating metabolic diseases in humans.

Keywords: Carotid body; Carotid sinus nerve; Glucose tolerance; Insulin resistance; KHFAC modulation; Neuromodulation; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • C-Peptide / blood
  • Carotid Sinus / innervation*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Electromyography
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / blood
  • Plethysmography
  • Rats


  • Blood Glucose
  • C-Peptide
  • Insulin
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Corticosterone