In a double-blind crossover study of 15 diabetic patients, elevated red blood cell (RBC) sorbitol levels were reduced by oral doses of the potent aldose reductase inhibitor, sorbinil (250 mg o.d.), to near-normal ranges. In diabetic rats with severe hyperglycemia, oral sorbinil (5 mg/kg) dramatically reduced (80–90%) sorbitol levels in tissues without affecting blood glucose; the RBC dose-response curve was similar to that in lens and sciatic nerve. In streptozotocin-treated rats with varying degrees of diabetes sorbitol levels in the lens, sciatic nerve, and RBC were elevated in proportion to the degree of hyperglycemia. RBC sorbitol levels in these animals were positively correlated with the levels in lens and sciatic nerve. These results establish that orally administered sorbinil is effective in lowering elevated sorbitol levels, and strongly suggest that the reduction seen in RBC sorbitol levels in human diabetic subjects is likely to reflect comparable effects of the drug in less accessible tissues associated with the long-term complications of diabetes.

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