New Study Suggests Drug May Be Remedy for Diabetic Neuropathy

Medical researchers have shown evidence that a drug can treat diabetic neuropathy, the complication that leads diabetics to lose sensation in the extremities and even lose feet and hands in serious cases.  The drug is EMA401, the leading product of Australian drug company Spinifex Pharmaceuticals.

Diabetic neuropathy is a serious complication of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.  Diabetes involves the failure of the body’s tissues to take up sugar from the bloodstream.  This happens either because the bodies is not producing the hormone insulin in sufficient quantities or at all due to damage to the pancreas (type 1) or the cells have lost their ability to respond to insulin (type 2).  In either case, the effect of long term high blood sugar is to damage the body’s organs, including nerve cells.

The damaged nerves lead to numbness, “pins and needles”, tingling, swelling, and often severe pain in the feet and hands, and the condition may lead to deformity and even gangrene, resulting in the necessity for amputation of the affected limbs.  The condition has also been linked with other conditions of the feet and hands such as ulcers, muscle weakness, and diminished reflexes.  People with diabetic neuropathy may notice cuts and bruises on their feet and hands do not hurt as much as they should, and are perhaps slower in healing.

The condition may also cause light-headedness, problems with balance, erectile dysfunction in men and wasting of muscle tissue.

Spinifex is a Victoria–based biotechnology company which specializes in developing compounds for the treatment of pain, particularly neuropathic pain.  They acquired the primary work on the drug EMA401 from theUniversityofQueensland, and it is now their lead product.

EMA401 is an angiotensin II type 2 (AT2) receptor antagonist, which Spinifex are currently developing for a number of neuropathic and inflammatory pain conditions.  The need for neuropathic pain treatments is increasing and expected to reach $6.2 billion by 2017, with no remedies effective and safe for all patients currently available.

In studies, they found EMA401 reduced pain and heat sensitivity and corrected motor sensory aberrations in diabetic laboratory animal models.  The drug also increased blood flow and nutrition to the nerves and showed no side effects in the tests, ordered by Spinifex and carried out by a team from theUniversityofAberdeen.  Two professors, Norman Cameron and Mary Cotter presented the report at the 2011 annual meeting of the Diabetic Neuropathy Study Group of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

EMA401 will now be the subject of full clinical trials to determine whether it is effective and safe for human patients and Spinifex say the study may lead to the testing of the drug for other related conditions.  They believe the studies suggest the compound actually treats the neural deficit that underlies neuropathy, and it shows no side effects to the central nervous system.  Other compounds currently available often fail to have an effect on the symptoms of patients with neuropathy or cause unwanted side effects.

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