American scientists believe they may have found a way to repair nerve damage in people with diabetes.
Researchers from the Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine say their findings could lead to the creation of new therapies that could treat diabetic neuropathy (nerve disease).
Their findings detail a new understanding of the role of a type of molecule called cytokines, which enable cells to communicate with each other.
It is these cytokines which researchers believe could spark the recovery process for people with diabetic neuropathy, a condition caused by prolonged high blood glucose levels which results in poor circulation and nerve damage.
The research team found that mice with type 1 diabetes could not mend damaged nerve cells because of decreased levels of a certain type of cytokines known as the gp130 family. They claim that replacing these molecules could ease the symptoms of diabetic nerve damage.
Professor Richard Zigmond, who led the study, said: “Our results indicate that targeting this cytokine pathway might alleviate some of the neural complications from diabetes.”
Zigmond is now leading new research to explore this possibility in animals. He added: “Our findings are exciting because they show not only deficits of major gp130 cytokines in diabetic nerve tissue, but they also show changes in their downstream signalling pathways, namely the induction of certain regeneration-associated genes.
Before this study scientists were unaware why this collection of cytokines helped improve the outlook for people with nerve damage as a result of diabetes.
“These results provide a rationale for findings by others that gp130 cytokines can enhance peripheral nerve regeneration in animal models of diabetes,” added Zigmond.
The study team is also exploring diabetic nerve damage in type 2 diabetes and whether the same findings apply to the condition.
The results have been published in the journal Experimental Neurology.

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