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Neuropathy: prevent unpleasant nerve pain early
According to expert estimates, around five million people in Germany suffer from neuropathic pain. When such symptoms persist, treatment is often extremely difficult. A research team has found a way to prevent the development of nerve pain early.
Unpleasant tingling in the hands and feet, numbness, furry and burning - these symptoms can indicate neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system, explains the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in a message. If the nerve pain persists for several months, it is called chronic. Then they are very difficult to treat, and available medications often have serious side effects. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have now found a way to prevent the development of neuropathic pain at an early stage.
Five million Germans suffer from neuropathic pain
According to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, around five million people in Germany suffer from neuropathic pain. These arise from damage to the peripheral or central nervous system.
There are many reasons for this: Nerve pain is often caused by autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, alcohol abuse, infections or injuries e. V. (DGAI) explained.
Even after chemotherapy, some patients still suffer from neuropathic pain because the drugs used to treat the tumor have attacked nerves.
In addition, the misperceptions often occur after operations, for example in bypass operations, or accidents, such as when the spinal cord is injured, according to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Pain in the phantom, from which quite a few patients suffer after an amputation, is also a neuropathic, mechanically induced pain.
Quality of life is significantly impaired
A change in skin sensitivity is typical of those affected. They perceive stimuli such as cold, heat or touch more or hardly. It becomes problematic when the pain becomes independent and chronic.
The quality of life of the data subjects is then significantly impaired. Often they can no longer practice their profession, they neglect leisure activities and friendships. The consequences include isolation, resignation and depression.
The development of neuropathic, trauma-induced pain, which often occurs after surgery or accidents, must be stopped as early as possible. Because once the neuropathic pain has arisen, therapies only have a limited effect. In addition, the corresponding drugs have strong side effects.
Experts are researching alternative therapies for early treatment
This is where researchers from the Translational Medicine and Pharmacology TMP section of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Frankfurt come in. Experts are researching alternative therapies for the early treatment of neuropathic pain.
In tests, the scientists were able to demonstrate that various lipids, which are released as signal molecules in injuries, control the inflammatory reactions on the damaged nerves.
"The nerves raise the alarm and release lipids to signal the immune system that there is an injury and the cause must be eliminated," explains Prof. Dr. Klaus Scholich, Group Leader Biomedical Analytics and Imaging at Fraunhofer IME.
“With neuropathic pain, the attracted immune cells become an enemy after a while. They interact with the nerves in such a way that the affected areas are permanently inflamed. The nerve pain can no longer subside, it becomes chronic. By cutting off signaling pathways that attract immune cells, we can significantly reduce pain. ”
This is possible, for example, through the timely use of painkillers such as ibuprofen and diclofenac. When administered early, these drugs can stop the production of the lipid prostaglandin E2, which plays a crucial role in trauma-induced pain because it both sensitizes the nerves and activates the immune system.
Significantly reduce pain development
Prostaglandin E2 also binds the EP3 receptor. As stated in the communication, neurons that have this receptor release the signaling molecule CCL2. This in turn promotes pain development, because it always attracts new immune cells to the injured nerves and also increases pain perception, as the IME researchers found in their studies.
“We were able to elucidate the downstream mechanisms that promote the development of neuropathic pain through inflammatory reactions,” explains Prof. Scholich. “The EP3 receptor recognizes prostaglandin E2. By switching off the EP3 and thus inhibiting the release of CCL2, you can significantly reduce the development of pain. "
According to the information, the CCL2 could be intercepted with therapeutic, specific antibodies. These antibodies could be used for chronic pain when conventional medicines such as ibuprofen are no longer effective.
The disadvantage: antibodies have to be injected. Since most patients find this unpleasant, Scholich and his colleagues are researching alternative active ingredients that can be administered orally. The researchers have published their results in the renowned journal "Journal of Biological Chemistry". (ad)
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This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.