Type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a multifactorial disease involving complex genetic and environmental interactions. No single animal model has so far mirrored all the characteristics or complications of diabetes in humans. Since this disease represents a chronic nutritional insult based on a diet bearing a high glycemic load, the ideal model should recapitulate the underlying dietary issues. Most rodent models have three shortcomings: (1) they are genetically or chemically modified to produce diabetes; (2) unlike humans, most require high-fat feeding; (3) and they take too long to develop diabetes. By contrast, Nile rats develop diabetes rapidly (8–10 weeks) with high-carbohydrate (hiCHO) diets, similar to humans, and are protected by high fat (with low glycemic load) intake. This review describes diabetes progression in the Nile rat, including various aspects of breeding, feeding, and handling for best experimental outcomes. The diabetes is characterized by a striking genetic permissiveness
influencing hyperphagia and hyperinsulinemia; random blood glucose is the best index of disease progression; and kidney failure with chronic morbidity and death are outcomes, all of which mimic uncontrolled T2DM in humans. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), also described in diabetic humans, results from hepatic triglyceride and cholesterol accumulation associated with rising blood glucose. Protection is afforded by low glycemic load diets rich in certain fibers or polyphenols. Accordingly, the Nile rat provides a unique opportunity to identify the nutritional factors and underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms that characterize human T2DM.
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