Background: Urtica dioica is known as an anti-hyperglycemic plant. Urtica dioica distillate (UD) is a traditional Iranian drink, locally known as "aragh gazaneh". In spite of its widespread consumption in Iran, according to traditional Iranian medicine, there is no scientific report on the usefulness of UD for diabetic patients. This survey was designed to evaluate its protective effects for the recovery from diabetes by determining the serum insulin, blood glucose, volume of pancreatic islets, and the number and volume of β-cells in diabetic rats.
Methods: A total of 48 Sprague-Dawley male rats (200-250 g) were randomly distributed into 6 groups (n=8), including non-diabetic plus distilled water (DW), non-diabetic plus UD, diabetic plus DW, diabetic plus UD, diabetic plus insulin, and diabetic plus glibenclamide. DW, UD, and glibenclamide were administered via intragastric gavage and insulin was injected subcutaneously. After four weeks of experiments, blood samples were collected for serum insulin and blood glucose assay. Pancreas was also evaluated using stereological method. The SPSS software was used for statistical analysis. Kruskal-Wallis, repeated measurements, and Mann-Whitney U test were applied for comparisons between the groups.
Results: The treatment of diabetic rats with UD reduced the blood glucose dramatically (P<0.001) and increased serum insulin levels significantly (P=0.03) in comparison to the diabetic plus DW rats. Treatment with UD did not affect the mean β-cell volumes in the diabetic rats when compared to the diabetic plus DW rats, but the islet volumes and β-cell numbers were significantly recovered.
Conclusion: UD treatment in diabetic rats improves hyperglycemia by partially restoring plasma insulin levels. The data suggest that UD prevents islet atrophy and/or regenerate pancreatic β-cells.
Keywords: Diabetes mellitus; Pancreatic beta cell; Rats; Streptozotocin; Urtica dioica distillate.