Research Update Neuropathy: Relief for Diabetics with Painful Conditions

In 2013, we published a research study involving Phase II Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HCF) in Patients with Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy involving several study groups. The article below is an follow-up to this study which was recently published in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology and Science Daily.

Neuropathy: Relief for diabetics with painful condition 

Walking barefoot on sand “felt like walking on glass” for Keith Wenckowski, who has lived with type-one diabetes for more than two decades.

One of the participants in the study at Northwestern site, who suffered from painful diabetic neuropathy (DPN), Wenckowski finally found relief from the constant foot pain that required him to wear shoes at all time, even to the beach.

The study found that those with painful diabetic neuropathy who received two low dose rounds of a non-viral gene therapy called VM202 had significant improvement of their pain that lasted for months.

“I can now go to a beach and walk on the sand without feeling like I am walking on glass,” Wenckowski said.

“Those who received the therapy reported more than 50 percent reduction in their symptoms and virtually no side effects,” said Dr. Jack Kessler, lead author of the study. “Not only did it improve their pain, it also improved their ability to perceive a very, very light touch.

VM202 contains human hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) gene. Growth factor is a naturally occurring protein in the body that acts on cells, in this case nerve cells – to keep them alive, healthy and functioning. Future study is needed to investigate if the therapy can actually regenerate damaged nerves, reversing the neuropathy.

Wenckowski had continuous numbness, but now, more than a year since he received the therapy, his symptoms have not returned.

Patients with painful diabetic neuropathy have abnormally high levels of glucose in their blood. These high levels of glucose can be toxic.

“We are hoping that the treatment will increase the local production of hepatocyte growth factor to help regenerate nerves and grow new blood vessels and therefore reduce the pain,” said Dr. Senda Ajroud-Driss, associate professor in neurology at Feinberg, an attending physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and an author of the study.

“Right now there is no medication that can reverse neuropathy,” Kessler said. “Our goal is to develop a treatment. If we can show with more patients that is a very real phenomenon, then we can show we have not only improved the symptoms of the disease, namely the pain, but we have actually improved function.”

A future, much larger phase three study will soon be underway. READ MORE

Source: Northwestern University. “Neuropathy: Relief for diabetics with painful condition.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2015.