Researchers develop ointment to reverse neuropathy in diabetic patients

More than 25 percent of type-2 diabetes patients suffer from neuropathy, a condition that causes numbness and nerve pain in the feet. But new research from Northwestern University has found a way to reverse the condition.

The study, published in Molecular Pain, gives hope to thousands of diabetic patients whom have high levels of GM3, a type of ganglioside that contributes to constant pain in their feet.

"We have such terrible treatments right now for the neuropathy of diabetes," said corresponding author Amy Paller, MD, the Walter J. Hamlin professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and director of Northwestern's Skin Disease Research Center in Chicago. "We're basically only treating the pain. This is a novel pathogenesis-based approach that looks at what's causing the neuropathy and reverses that instead of just treating the pain."

After finding that by depleting GM3 through genetic modification prevented the development of neuropathy in mice, the researchers created an ointment to reduce the chemical and the enzyme that makes it.

The scientists compared the appearance and function of the mice’s nerves when they were exposed to ointment to when they weren’t. They tested their pain responses and found that when exposed to the ointment, their pain reactions were no different from mice that had low levels of GM3.

Going forward, the researchers want to further test the ointment on humans in clinical trials to conclude it has the same beneficial effect.

"If the studies look promising in mice, our long-term goal would be to further test safety and advance to human clinical trials to prevent and/or reverse the development of diabetic neuropathy," Paller said.