To assess the potential role of polyol-pathway activity in diabetic neuropathy, we measured the effects of sorbinil — a potent inhibitor of the key polyol-pathway enzyme aldose reductase — on nerve conduction velocity in 39 stable diabetics in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial. During nine weeks of treatment with sorbinil (250 mg per day), nerve conduction velocity was greater than during a nine-week placebo period for all three nerves tested: the peroneal motor nerve (mean increase [±S.E.M.], 0.70±0.24 m per second, P<0.008), the median motor nerve (mean increase, 0.66±0.27, P<0.005), and the median sensory nerve (mean increase, 1.16±0.50, P<0.035). Conduction velocity for all three nerves declined significantly within three weeks after cessation of the drug. These effects of sorbinil were not related to glycemic control, which was constant during the study. Although the effect of sorbinil in improving nerve conduction velocity in diabetics was small, the findings suggest that polyol-pathway activity contributes to slowed nerve conduction in diabetics. The clinical applicability of these observations remains to be determined, but they encourage further exploration of this approach to the treatment or prevention of diabetic neuropathy. (N Engl J Med. 1983; 308:119–25.).
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