One common side effect of living with diabetes can be painful diabetic neuropathy, which is nerve damage in the arms, hands, legs, or feet; the condition is caused by chronically high blood sugar levels. There are limited treatment options to deal with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, or the pain it causes.
However, a new multi-center study showed hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) injections helped treat the condition for a good amount of study participants. The study was published in the May 2015 issue of the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neuropathy. However, the treatment did not work for the majority of individuals studied, meaning HGF may be a good treatment option, but not necessarily a silver bullet in treating diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, HGF is a protein in the body that is associated with organ development, tissue regeneration, and wound healing in adults. It also supports the growth and nourishment of neuron cells. In the double-blind Phase II study, 96 individuals were given either a placebo or HGF intramuscular injections in the leg twice over two weeks; the experimental group received either 8 mg (low-dose) or 16 mg (high-dose) of HGF. Participants were asked to record information in a pain and sleep diary.
The low-dose experimental group showed the greatest reduction in pain after three months, according to a MedScape article. In particular, those who were not not already taking other prescription drugs that treat this type of pain reported a statistically significant decrease on the pain measurement scale. Additionally, 48% of those surveyed in the low-dose group reported their pain was either “improved” or “very much improved” after three months; 31% of people in the high-dose group also reported “improved’ or “very much improved” pain levels. Improvement in touch sensitivity was also observed in those treated with HGF.
Researchers hope this form of treatment, which would require only eight injections a year, will eliminate the need for patients experiencing painful diabetic neuropathy to take daily medication. The HGF injections also could be seen as an alternative option for those who do not experience pain relief with currently available prescription drugs. Further study will be needed before the treatment might become available on the market, and researchers expect to conduct a new trial in 2016.