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Scientists developing treatment to prevent diabetic neuropathy

A gene therapy ointment is being developed which may be able to reverse the pain that can result from diabetic neuropathy.
The new treatment comes from researchers at Northwestern University, led by Dr. Amy Paller, professor of dermatology at the university’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Currently, the only treatments for neuropathy are painkillers to mask the symptom of pain when it occurs but the researchers hope that the treatment they are developing will be able to prevent or reverse the condition itself.
The gene therapy ointment depletes GM3 in two ways: by depleting GM3 directly and through GM3 synthase which makes GM3.
The reason for targeting GM3 comes from the researchers noting that mice with diabetes had much higher levels of GM3 and GM3 synthase in their nerves than normal. The researchers then developed their treatment and tested the effects of the ointment by applying it to the paws of mice.
The mice used were obese and had developed diabetes. The mice which were not treated showed visual signs of nerve degeneration whereas those which received the treatment managed to retain normal looking nerves.
The research team then tested the mice for signs of pain. Dr. Paller explained: “The routine diabetic mice had nerve changes that intensified their pain sensation, and they experienced a lot of pain with just a light touch.
Adding: “When we rescued them by depleting their GM3, they didn’t withdraw their feet (suggesting pain) any more quickly than the mice without diabetes.”
The treatment still has a way to go before it can be trialled in humans but it is very promising that research teams are working on ways to treat neuropathy in a much more advanced way than is currently the case.

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