In a recent successful study, Emory University researchers restored nerve function in diabetic mice. The process they adopted - bone marrow cell transplantation.
The team revealed that transplanting cells that replenish blood vessels could restore nerve function in an animal model of diabetic neuropathy.
The majority of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy-damage to the peripheral nerves that can cause a loss of sensation in hands, arms, feet or legs.
The damage, caused by high blood sugar, occurs gradually and in advanced cases can lead to amputation.
Lead researcher Young-sup Yoon, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine (cardiology) at Emory University School of Medicine showed that cultured cells from the bone marrow can promote the regrowth of both blood vessels and the protective lining of nerves in the limbs of diabetic animals.
Bone marrow is thought to contain endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), which can divide into endothelial cells, forming a "patch" for damaged blood vessels.
For the study, the team cultured bone marrow cells in a way designed to enrich them for EPCs and injected them next to the sciatic nerves of diabetic mice. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs from the back to the rear leg
They found that over several weeks, nerve signal speed and sensitivity to temperature were restored to normal in diabetic mice injected with the bone marrow cells.
The results appear online in the journal Circulation.