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At the source of the pain

07 June 2012

JDRF funded researchers in Germany have discovered the cause of pain felt by people with diabetic neuropathy.

The study, which was recently published in the prestigious Nature Medicine, found that a molecule which is produced when blood glucose levels are high contributed to the feeling of pain felt when nerves are damaged. The molecule, which is called methylglyoxal, causes the nerves that sense pain to become locked into the ‘on’ position which makes people more sensitive to pain.

Diabetic neuropathy can sometimes occur in people with type 1 as high blood glucose levels may eventually lead to nerve damage. It most often causes numbness or lack of sensation but can also lead to intense pain. Until now, it was not known what causes this pain. Now that they have discovered the source of the pain, researchers can begin to work on strategies to stop the production of this molecule and reduce the pain.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communication at JDRF, said: ‘This study highlights JDRF’s strategy to develop complications therapies. Dr Nawroth and colleagues have identified a pathway triggered by high glucose levels and the next step is and try to intervene early and prevent pain from occurring’.

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