Researchers Uncover the Source of Diabetic Pain

Source: King’s College London

Summary: Researchers reveal that a protein molecule – HCN2 is responsible for the painful diabetic neuropathy in people suffering from diabetes.

A new study finds the molecular basis of the chronic nerve pain in diabetes. The findings are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Painful Diabetic Neuropathy (PDN) is a chronic condition leads to nerve damage in people suffering from diabetes due to high blood sugars in their body. This condition is almost observed in 1 in 4 people with diabetes. Symptoms of PDN include prickling and tingling sensations, extremely sensitive to touch in the feet and hands, these symptoms can impair mobility, which in turn worsens obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Diabetic Pain

Image (left) shows nerve fibres (green) in a normal mouse, while the loss of nerve fibres in a diabetic mouse is clearly visible in the image on the right. Human diabetic patients show a similar loss of nerve fibres and the activity of HCN2 in these fibres is associated with the development of pain. Credit: King’s College London

The molecular causes of diabetic pain are poorly understood and it is very difficult to treat. This new study made by the researchers at King’s College London found that a single protein molecule – HCN2 – can by itself be responsible for a sensation like diabetic pain. Mouse models of diabetes are used to check the over-activity of HCN2. They finally observed that in the presence of HCN2, electrical signals are initiated in pain-sensitive nerve fibres resulting in the sensation of pain and by blocking the activity of HCN2, the sensation of pain is stopped entirely.

Prof. Peter McNaughtan senior author of the study said, “Our study reveals the molecular mechanism driving diabetic pain in mice, which we hope will inform future treatments in people with diabetes.”

Dr.Chrisotforus Tsantoulas first author of the study said, “This research provides a stimulus for the development of targeted pain drugs that can block HCN2 without affecting the activity of other molecules.”

More Information: C.T. Tsantoulas et al., “Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated 2 (HCN2) ion channels drive pain in mouse models of diabetic neuropathy,” Science Translational Medicine (2017). … scitranslmed.aam6072


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