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Increased nerve growth factor mRNA in lateral calf skin biopsies from diabetic patients

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Summary

Aims This study set out to establish a novel procedure for the measurement of human nerve growth factor (NGF) messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) and to use this method to measure NGF expression in skin biopsies from control subjects and from patients with early neuropathies. NGF mRNA levels were related to functional measures of the competence of NGF-responsive nerves.

Methods mRNA levels were measured by competitive reverse transcription with polymerase chain reaction amplification (cRT-PCR). Functional correlates of this observation were assessed by indices of thermal sensitivity – mediated by C-fibres, whose phenotype is regulated by NGF.

Results NGF mRNA was increased in skin biopsies from 19 diabetic patients (5.12 ± 3.88 (sd)) compared with samples from eight controls (1.57 ± 0.95; P = 0.001). Diabetic patients showed significantly (P < 0.001) diminished detection of cool and warm stimuli compared to age matched control group (n = 24), but there were no differences in detection of heat as pain, or correlation with NGF mRNA levels.

Conclusions These findings suggest abnormally increased expression of NGF in diabetic neuropathy, which may represent a compensatory mechanism for impaired phenotype in NGF-responsive neurones.

Diabet. Med. 16, 113–118 (1999)
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Keywords: cRT-PCR; diabetes mellitus; human; nerve growth factor; neuropathy; neurotrophin

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 February 1999

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