Scientists Discover Path to Reversing Pain Caused by Diabetic Neuropathy

Scientists Discover Path to Reversing Pain Caused by Diabetic Neuropathy

By Staff

About 20 percent of people with diabetes will eventually experience peripheral neuropathy – pain that is often described as burning, shooting, stabbing or tingling in the toes and fingertips.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists have discovered how to reverse this pain.  They have identified and successfully tested a molecule that can inhibit the function of a protein that turns touch receptors into pain receptors under the skin.  They did their research in mice, which have a similar neural and cellular make up as humans.

The scientists are hopeful that a new drug can be developed to treat patients with diabetic neuropathy, as well as other nerve damage-related pain, but note that nerve damage itself generally can’t be repaired.

“Therefore, proper pain management can significantly improve the lives of people with diabetic neuropathy and others living with nerve damage,” said co-author, Dr. Kate Poole, who conducted the research at the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine in Germany, and is now based at UNSW’s School of Medical Sciences.

Skin has specialized receptors that allow the perception of the slightest touch and can even detect extremely small movements.  These movements are transformed into electrical signals via channels at sensory endings in the skin.  The sensitivity of these channels is controlled by a protein called STOML3, which is required for normal receptor function.

This protein as a target for blocking pain receptors found underneath the skin.  During their reserarch, the scientists identified a single molecule after searching through a catalogue of 35,000 compounds. When this molecule was tested on the sensory endings in the skin of mice, they found STOML3 clustering was inhibited and pain receptors were silenced.

Inhibiting STOML3 did not significantly affect the non-pain-related touch sensitivity of the mice, ensuring touch sensitivity was not sacrificed at the expense of turning off pain receptors.

“While a potential new treatment for the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy is still some years away, the research is an important first step in changing the accepted thinking around how to treat the condition,” Dr. Poole said.

“Directly targeting nerve receptors in the skin could help manage pain in a way that does not trigger the negative side effects of drugs that act on the body’s central nervous system, which is how most current treatments work.”

“If human patients respond the same way, this will represent a major step in treating a neuropathology that has a devastating effect on the lives of many people,” Professor Gary Lewin, from the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine.

“We will be studying force sensing molecules in the cells that make our cartilage to see if we can identify a way to reverse the cartilage damage that occurs when people develop osteoarthritis,” Dr. Poole said.

“This also involves going back to the drawing board to look more closely at force sensing proteins in other cells and tissues so we can increase our understanding of how human cells sense their physical surroundings.”

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Authored by: Staff

There are 13 comments for this article
  1. Elaine at 5:36 pm

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  2. Tim Mason at 10:25 pm

    Dave,
    I do not think I have ever read a more fitting comment. There is a lot of truth in the McDonalized for of healthcare. i.e. Pay for services at Window – Wait – Next window – describe what is “and with great mental anguish find out what you can get from the menu in 10 minutes or less. This is the fast food analogy. the more the visit is like a drive thru window the Big Macs we can sell..
    This is disappointing on many levels but the doctors office is “where the rubber meets the road” and we as patients have no traction control and are skidding out of control. It fact, it could be said that many have crashed and burned as a result of Gestapo enforced recommendations. Pain management is now seen as a visit to the SS office under the recommendations of a Furor. I must add as well that any of us that try and speak up are considered to be part of an “underground movement.”

  3. Vicki at 5:20 am

    I just don’t understand….with so many people being off work and on disability of some sort, that they’d want to get us back to work on off gov substidity of whatever. So whenever we get close to something like a cure….you’d think they’d want to get us off their collective backs….wouldn’t you think?

  4. Dave at 5:04 am

    Its a terrible thing to see and have no vision- that’s how I started my comments to the National Pain Strategy-and I was one of two people calling for a new goal to lower the prevalence of chronic pain and the only person calling for curative treatment for pain. I am glad to see now that both are part of the NPS.
    There are those who would defend the sorry state of affairs in our McDonaldized pain care system where now people in pain must plea like serfs without rights for opioids and be subjected to unreliable urine drug tests. For they don’t care enough about people in pain to call for a much different or better future for people in pain. They are content for the current pain care system to continue indefinitely. They don’t want people in pain to stop limping- but to limp less and mind it less. And so no wonder, pain specialists have lacked a vision for pain care- a vision requires them to do a lot better- and they are quite unwilling to make the effort. Theyd rather oppose those who want medicine to be held to a much higher standard. They are opposed to those calling for an end to the lifetime pain patient they have created. They oppose talk of cures and changing their precious and ill conceived paradigm. And in essence they are opposed to real progress in pain care and have no problem with pain care remaining the way it is today. Shame on those visionless who dwell in the halls of myopia who lack the moral imagination and the caritas and humilitas to make pain care much different or better then it is today. They stand in the way of progress- just like those who opposed Semmelweis or who said man would never fly. All they can do is remain overconformed to the sorry status quo in pain care and cast specious aspersions on those willing to dream-and perhaps they are too low in the tooth to have a dream. I will oppose them for their ways are regressive and make no way for hope and progress. And thankfully, at least DHHS has agreed with me on the importance of curative research for pain.

  5. Jean Price at 4:31 pm

    Diabetic neuropathy pain is so diffuse and transient…I wonder what kind of delivery they would use and how it would target the leg pain nerves involved versus other nerves that weren’t relaying pain?! Lots to study. And confusing! Finding a cause…I’d like to think they’d find ways to normalize the body’s response…not just cover up the pain with medications! The article states they can “reverse” the pain…yet I’m not sure medicating is reversing. Sounds more like just a treatment. Now a low dose Cymbalta is already being used by many endocrinologist for diabetic neuropathy and seems to work well for many if not most patients. Perhaps this will lead to more progress where it’s needed on CRPS and other types of devastating pain nerve. We can always hope for a cure, or at least a proven effective treatment to greatly lessen the pain!. (And, one that won’t be pulled out from under us and denied….like opioids are!!)

  6. Dave at 11:38 am

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/health/immunotherapy-cancer.html?_r=0

    Certainly, government and the health care industry use a hype cycle to keep the public mesmerized about how wonderful treatment will be in the near fututre- as long as we are patient and willing to cough up more ta dollars- or pay more for treatment. But we pay too much not nly in money but in lost time- and lost life for the hype of govt and the health care industry-http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2016/07/28/stanfords-john-ioannidis-on-underperforming-big-ideas/
    The problem is with immunotherapy or molecular medicine or genomic medicine for pain or other conditions- is its still fatalistic and one dimensional. Its assumption is the body needs a medicine or procedure to counteract some chemical excess or deficiency and has irrevocably lost the capacity to correct itself. These are unproven assumptions that are too used to create the lifetime patient. Moreover they assume that whilst the person is receiving treatment that their body is doing nothing to correct itself. And how interesting= since science – including Dr Collins of NIH clearly indicates the body rids itself of cancer probably at least 5 times during a person life. And so even with immunotherapy- its likely the body itself is trying to rid itself of cancer.
    The question researchers need t ask in pain or in other diseases- why hasnt the body corrected the cndition- and what is the body currently doing to correct the condition.
    100 billion peple are believed t have come and gone- most before the invention of modern miracle medicine-one has to wnder how did they survive without the great miracles of modern medicine………..

  7. Bob Schubring at 11:18 am

    As usual, the Monday-morning quarterbacks busy themselves reminding us how imperfect the new treatments are. We don’t have a cure for diabetic neuropathy, moans one. We need a new paradigm, moans another. The patients who don’t immediately drop bloody well dead, will have a lifelong dependency on a medicine for pain…along with their lifelong dependency on a medicine for diabetes. And this dependency translates, bemoan the naysayers, into revenue for drug makers that reward them for paying scientists to discover facts about how the disease process works.

    Hillary Clinton recently lost an election, by running on the principle that imperfect medicines like opioids, should be taxed, so that patients or those who love them enough to provide for their care, must pay extra money to the Government, for the supposed privilege of keeping their loved ones comfortable. This, supposedly, fixes whatever-the-bleep is wrong with those invisible paradigms, and makes all correct with the elitist self-described thinkers.

    Last summer, we witnessed precisely the same sort of elitist hocus-pocus over invisible paradigms, in the Greek elections. Greek voters, speaking the language from which the word “democracy” arose, democratically voted to pay pensions to the elderly and healthcare for the sick, before they paid interest to foreign bankers from whom their government had borrowed money. Using the elitist and anti-democratic mechanisms built into the European Union and its central bank, the foreign bankers shut off the ATM machines and put Greeks on a 60 euro per week allowance. Grocery store shelves stayed empty. Transport trucks stopped delivering food and medicine to Greece. Eventually, the voters were beaten into partial submission and the elitists of Brussels won. This spring, British voters, many of whom vacationed in Greece and knew Greek people who had to endure this ordeal, voted to reject Brussels’ intellectual elitism and exit the anti-democratic European Union. Elitist snobs insult the British for clinging bitterly to their ballot boxes, just as they insult pain patients for using imperfect medicines for maintaining some quality of life. But the fact remains, that we age and suffer and die, while waiting for the elitist intellectual snob class to devise a perfect world. The snob class have sought this perfect world, for centuries. They make little progress. Accordingly, we the non-snobs assert the moral right to continue using imperfect medicines to treat our illnesses, while awaiting the snobs’ efforts at achieving perfection, and we’re not going to suffer more pain or pay the snobs extra taxes, so that the snobs can continue to feel snobbish about themselves. Yes, Mr Trump is kind of dumb about certain things. He will require correction when he is wrong. We pain patients are learning to speak up, because in a democracy, that’s how we correct harmful problems. We will speak up to Trump when he is wrong. It’s an imperfect solution, but it’s causing us less harm, than have the elitists who want to take away our medicine and be paid money for harming us and driving us to suicide.

  8. Rebecca M Reaves at 7:58 pm

    This article is exciting to read. Yes, it may be years before a drug is on the market, but this sounds like a step in the right direction. I am grateful researchers are paying attention to the epidemic of life-altering pain conditions. As a decade-long CRPS sufferer, I will continue to pray for a cure; if not for me, than for the next generation.

  9. Tim Mason at 5:38 pm

    I am surprised weekly as I read my Chemical and Engineering News magazine at work. It should be retitled Chemical and Biomedical News because there are many breakthroughs, discoveries and rediscoveries in medicine at the molecular level.
    Last year my dapple dachshund developed an oral cancer behind a molar. The large mass was discovered during his annual cleaning. I had noticed his mastication had changed and the biopsy confirmed the fatal cancer. The said not to worry there is a treatment for this now. 100% cure rate. We took him to the regional vet hospital about 7 miles from here and the tumor was removed and he was started on an immunotherapy specific for this oral cancer. Clinical trials had been ongoing for 9 years with great success even with those that showed metastasis to lungs and lymph glands. The treatment is similar to that used on Jimmy Carter for brain cancer.
    A few weeks after treatment I read an article in C&E News about all the studies of cancer and diseases being done on dogs. Different breeds have different cancers so many are studied. At 10 years, 2017 the treatment will be available to humans.
    So, I am not surprised that these bio treatments are coming along fast. Dogs, having relative short life spans that are in a disease state make excellent subjects for study.
    Jax, my dog is still doing great 18 months post treatment with no signs of cancer.
    I believe a Parkinson’s treatment and possible cure is just around the corner.
    Besides C&E News I subscribe to Genome and Neurology Today.

  10. dave at 4:26 pm

    I agree with Jhelm- this is still antipathic medicine-and we have learned of the problems of the latest and greatest antipathic medicine like methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis leading to cancer- or the new immune therapies for cancer leading to organ failure. Why should anyone believe that antipathic medicine can do anything but make someone dependent on a medication indefinately? Maybe im begging the question here…….. And perhaps the antipathic paradigm was designed to make one dependent on expensive medications indefinately.
    It is unfortunate these scientists fail to see the great limitations of the antipathic paradigm on which their poisonous enthusiasm lies. I would think by now they would have grown bored with their trying to cmpensate fr what they believe are the failings of the human body. Maybe they should try some evolutionary medicine and the unitary theory of Rogers.. They are stuck in a reinforcement loop and lack the moral imagination to make fundamental changes in their approaches to pain that go beyond ameliorating biomolecules that correlate with symttoms.
    It is up to the American public to call for researchers to create a much more robust paradigm for pain- failing that i dont expect real progress in pain care anytime soon.

  11. Jhelm at 5:37 am

    As usual this is a paain management therapy and not a cure………

  12. Bernadette daly at 5:25 am

    I would try the patches as I’ve got fibromyalgia and syatica and suffer with a lot of pain ;I was smoking it but gave up 9 months ago as didn’t have money to keep paying for it thanks

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