A Closer Look At How Gene Therapy Can Reverse Diabetic Neuropathy

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A nonviral gene therapy may relieve symptoms of painful diabetic neuropathy.
A nonviral gene therapy may relieve symptoms of painful diabetic neuropathy.

Gene therapy in the form of a plasmid containing two human hepatocyte growth factor isoforms administered via intramuscular injection may alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life in patients with painful diabetic neuropathy.

In addition, the plasmid -- VM202 -- may be particularly beneficial in those patients not taking gabapentin or pregabalin, according to researchers at Northwestern University.

In a recently completed double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 84 patients were randomly assigned to receive injections of 8 mg or 16 mg of VM202 per leg (calf muscles and lower leg) or placebo, with doses administered on days 0 and 14.

At 3 months, patients in the low-dose group experienced a significant reduction in pain compared with the placebo group, the researchers found.1 

“I am very excited about it. This is an enormous problem, and it has a huge impact on people's lives. [These patients] spend so much time in agony,” said study investigator Jack Kessler, MD, who is a professor in the department of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. 

“The data are very, very strong. One issue that remains to be resolved is if we are modifying the disease, and at this time, the jury is still out. In our last study, we had some improvement in patients to feel light stimuli, but we need additional data to say we are altering the course of the disease. If our phase 3 study gives us the same results, then this treatment will be the best option for treating diabetic neuropathy.”

Study Results

The primary outcome for this current study was change in the mean pain score measured by a 7-day pain diary. The analysis also included quality of life and pain measures, and measurement of intraepidermal nerve fiber density, according to Kessler.

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