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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 1, 2019

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Missing Signals Lead to Diabetic Nerve Injury

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New study out of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine suggests replenishing cell signaling molecules could improve symptoms

 

Molecules that help cells communicate with each other—called cytokines—might be the key to repairing diabetic nerve damage. Diabetes devastates nerve cells, which can lead to poor circulation, muscle weakness, blindness, and other painful side effects. The new study showed diabetic mice can’t repair nerve cells after damage due to low levels of specific cytokines.

In a mouse model of type 1 diabetes, researchers measured cytokine responses in mice with damaged sciatic nerves. Diabetic mice responded with unusually low levels of cytokines that notify other cells of injury, which in turn hampered activation of reparative genes. The results provide a new explanation for irreparable nerve cell damage seen in diabetic patients.

Replenishing the missing cytokines could help improve symptoms for diabetics, said study lead Richard Zigmond, PhD, professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, “Our results indicate that targeting this cytokine pathway might alleviate some of the neural complications from diabetes.” Zigmond added that pilot animal studies toward this aim are underway.

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