Micro- and macro-vascular complications are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients. Despite the vast clinical experience linking diabetic metabolic abnormalities to cardiovascular lesions, the molecular basis of individual susceptibility to diabetic cardiovascular injury is still largely unknown. Significant advances in this area may come from studies on suitable animal models.
Although no animal model can accurately reproduce the human disease, experimental studies in animals have the great advantage to eliminate factors such as ethnicity, economic and geographic variables, drug interactions, diet, gender and age differences that importantly limit clinical studies. Indeed, appropriate animal models have provided important information on genetic and environmental risks of diabetes, and helped to dissect molecular mechanisms underlying the development, progression and therapeutic control of this disease. Unfortunately, none of the diabetic models presently available fully mimics the human syndrome. Therefore, the current knowledge on the pathogenesis of cardiovascular complications relies on the evaluation of distinct phenotypes from various diabetic models. In addition to strains prone to diabetes, this disease can be induced by surgical, pharmacological or genetic manipulation in several animal species. Rodents are the most used, although some studies are still performed in larger animals as rabbits, cats, pigs or monkeys. Far from being exhaustive, this work should serve as a general overview of the most relevant clues provided by major species and models for the overall comprehension of cardiovascular complications in type 1 and type 2 diabetes.