Australian and German researchers note in a recent study that they may have discovered how to reverse the pain caused by diabetes-related peripheral nerve damage.

In their study, published in Nature Neuroscience, they describe the identification and successful testing of a molecule that they suggest can inhibit the function of a protein, STOML3, which turns a person’s touch receptors into pain receptors under the skin.

After identifying the molecule, the researchers tested it on the sensory endings in the skin of mice, and found that STOML3 clustering was limited and the pain receptors were silenced.

The scientists also found that inhibiting STOML3 did not significantly affect the non-pain-related touch sensitivity of the mice, ensuring touch sensitivity was not sacrificed at the expense of turning off pain receptors, per a media release from University of New South Wales (UNSW).

This research could pave the way for future research in humans, with the hope that a new drug could be developed to treat diabetic neuropathy as well as other nerve damage-related pain.

“While a potential new treatment for the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy is still some years away, the research is an important first step in changing the accepted thinking around how to treat the condition,” says Dr Kate Pool, who conducted the research at the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine in Germany, in the release.

“Directly targeting nerve receptors in the skin could help manage pain in a way that does not trigger the negative side effects of drugs that act on the body’s central nervous system, which is how most current treatments work,” adds Pool, who is now based at the UNSW’s School of Medical Sciences.

According to senior co-author Professor Gary Lewin, from the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine, in the release, the research could represent a new approach arising from an understanding of the mechanisms that turn sensations of touch into pain.

“If human patients respond the same way, this will represent a major step in treating a neuropathology that has a devastating effect on the lives of many people,” he says.

[Source(s): University of New South Wales, EurekAlert]