Posted on May 01, 2009, 9 a.m.
By gary clark
Intramuscular injections of the vascular endothelial growth factor gene have been shown to help alleviate symptoms caused by diabetic polyneuropathy – a particular problem for long-time diabetics that can result in loss of sensory symptoms and pain.
Long-time diabetics often develop nerve damage throughout their body. This condition, referred to as diabetic polyneuropathy, typically causes loss of sensation and pain in the legs and feet, as well as weakness and balance problems. The risk of developing diabetic polyneuropathy increases with age and the length of time the individual has had the disease. In fact, the highest rates of neuropathy are in people who have had diabetes for at least 25 years. Loss of sensation is particularly problematic, because sufferers cannot feel painful ulcerations and as a result, foot and leg wounds can go undetected. This can lead to amputation.
Now researchers in Boston have discovered that a specific type of gene therapy may help diabetics gain back sensory symptoms. In a study, 39 patients received intramuscular injections of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene in one leg, with 11 patients receiving a placebo. Those patients who were injected with VEGF showed greater improvements in sensory symptoms and pain six months after treatment. "Most patients had fairly severe neuropathy, and the expectation for improvement was therefore not high," notes Dr. Allan Ropper, executive vice chair of the neurology department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Dr. Ropper also adds that the researchers were able to use the VEGF gene without packaging it in a virus. This, he explains, is a major safety advantage. However, he notes that "further investigation using a larger study group is needed before it can be introduced as a mainstream therapy."
News Release: Gene therapy improves diabetic neuropathy in study www.health.usnews.com April 29, 2009