Mouse Study Sheds Light on Cause of Neuropathy Pain

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that affects the nerves of the arms, legs, hands, and feet, causing symptoms such as pain, numbness, and tingling in the affected areas. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, as many as 70% of people with diabetes eventually develop neuropathy. Pain from this condition is often difficult to treat, but researchers at the University of Virginia have recently made a discovery in mice that may shed light on how to effectively reduce nerve pain.


Previous studies have indicated that a certain type of calcium channel (a structure that allows cells to communicate with one another) plays a role in the development of peripheral neuropathy pain. To investigate how these calcium channels contribute to neuropathy pain, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine examined mice with neuropathy, Type 2 diabetes, and morbid obesity.

They found that high levels of blood glucose change the structure of the calcium channels in such a way that the channels are forced open and calcium is released into the nerve cells. This overload of calcium causes the cells to become hyperactive, which in turn causes the characteristic symptoms of neuropathy such as tingling and pain.

“Normally pain is useful information because it alerts us that there is a damaging effect — something happening to tissues. But this pain is typically without any obvious reason,” says researcher Slobodan M. Todorovic, MD, PhD. “It’s because nerves are being affected by high levels of glucose in the blood. So nerves start working on their own and start sending pain signals to the brain. It can be a debilitating condition that severely affects quality of life.”

Dr. Todorovic and his colleague, Vesna Jevtovic-Todorovic, MD, PhD, showed that the pain from neuropathy could be reduced in the mice through the use of neuraminidase, a substance that naturally occurs in both animals and humans.

The researchers note that this finding may help with the development of treatments not only for neuropathy pain, but for other conditions that cause chronic pain such as combat wound injuries or nerve damage from accidents.

For more information, read the article “Discovery Shows the Way to Reverse Diabetic Nerve Pain” or see the study in the journal Diabetes. And for more on dealing with neuropathy pain, click here.

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  • Bonnie Lu Brehm

    I do have neuropathy pain but it is not constant like most diabetics. It feels like someone is sticking you with needles or worse an ice pick. But I find I can control my outbreaks by talking to myself and telling my body to knock it off. It actually works most of the time.

    I refuse to take anymore preventive medication as I’m tired of being a (mouse)only in human form. Although your theory is interesting I wouldn’t say its all based on the calcium opening up the blood vessels, but I’ll keep it in mind.

  • vie

    I have found that if I do not eat any chocolate after 2pm I have less pain. Enough to really know it works.
    I too am on meds for the pain so far no real change.

  • abalboni

    i am on carvadilal ; would this interfere with heart meds?

  • John Zimmerman

    I wonder if these findings have any significance for other serious nerve pain disorders, such as trigeminal neuralgia? Are any studies investigating that possibility?

  • Barbara Berger

    I, too, had a big problem with pain. Sometimes it was so severe that I actually cried. My neurologist tried several different meds to no avail. Then along came Lyrica. I started with 200 mg. 3 times a day, and due to the cost, I started 2 times a day only to find out that 2 doses (AM and PM) worked for me. Needless to say I can live a normal life now. If you have never tried Lyrica, talk to your neurologist and maybe it will work wonders for you, too!. Good Luck to all.