Researchers link diabetic complication, nerve damage in bone marrow

Jan 06, 2010

A research team led by a Michigan State University professor has discovered a link between diabetes and bone marrow nerve damage that may help treat one of the disease's most common and potentially blindness-causing complications.

The key to better treating retinopathy - damage to blood vessels in the retina that affects up to 80 percent of - lies not in the retina but in damage to the nerves found in bone marrow that leads to the abnormal release of , said Julia Busik, an associate professor in MSU's Department of Physiology.

"With retinopathy, grow abnormally in the retina, distort vision and eventually can cause ," said Busik, whose research appears in a recent issue of the . "There has been a lot of progress in treating the complication, but most treatments use a laser that is painful to the patient and destroys parts of the retina."

Busik and her team found that in diabetic bone marrow - where stem cells known as endothelial progenitor cells reside - affects the daily release of those EPCs into the . Normally EPCs would exit the bone marrow and repair damage done in the vascular system during sleep.

Using animal models, the research team observed that the pattern of EPC release is faulty in diabetic bone marrow, creating abnormally low levels of EPCs during sleep, when they are needed most. That decrease in EPC release from a diabetic patient's bone marrow preceded the development of retinopathy.

"When the bone marrow suffers nerve damage in diabetic patients, it no longer provides a signal for the timely release of these reparative stem cells," Busik said.

This novel finding shows that bone marrow nerve damage represents a new therapeutic target for treatment of all diabetic vascular complications, such as retinopathy.

"This opens up new avenues to better treatments outside of the retina that focus on stem cells and the causes of the nerve damage in bone marrow," said Busik, whose collaborators included other researchers from MSU and the University of Florida. "We know what happens in the retina and have treatments that are very invasive; we now can look at a host of other options."

Those options include looking at ways to prevent the original nerve damage in the bone marrow and potentially repairing or replacing the damaged endothelial progenitor cells.

Busik's work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.

Future work needs to be done to explain why the nerve damage in occurs in diabetic patients to begin with, she said.

Explore further: The impact of bacteria in our guts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bone marrow cells can heal nerves in diabetes model

Feb 04, 2009

Transplanting cells that replenish blood vessels can also restore nerve function in an animal model of diabetic neuropathy, Emory researchers have found. The results are described online this week in the journal Circulation.

Molecule dictates how stem cells travel

Jan 14, 2006

U.S. researchers have defined a molecule that dictates how blood stem cells travel to the bone marrow and establish blood and immune cell production.

Fossilized frogs yield bone marrow

Jul 27, 2006

Scientists say they've extracted bone marrow from fossilized frogs and salamanders that died 10 million years ago in the swamps of northeastern Spain.

Recommended for you

The impact of bacteria in our guts

2 hours ago

The word metabolism gets tossed around a lot, but it means much more than whether you can go back to the buffet for seconds without worrying about your waistline. In fact, metabolism is the set of biochemical ...

Stem cell therapies hold promise, but obstacles remain

2 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—In an article appearing online today in the journal Science, a group of researchers, including University of Rochester neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., review the potential and ch ...

New hope in fight against muscular dystrophy

3 hours ago

Research at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology offers hope to those who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable, debilitating disease that cuts young lives short.

Biologists reprogram skin cells to mimic rare disease

21 hours ago

Johns Hopkins stem cell biologists have found a way to reprogram a patient's skin cells into cells that mimic and display many biological features of a rare genetic disorder called familial dysautonomia. ...

User comments : 0