Sixteen million Americans have diabetes and as many as 90-percent may suffer from nerve damage. The disease can rob people of their limbs and bodily functions. Nerve damage has been considered irreversible until now. Researchers in Virginia believe they may be able to regrow damaged nerve cells.
Gordon thought he would never run again. Two years ago his diabetes was out of control causing nerve damage to his heart, stomach muscles and feet. “My feet started aching like toothaches. And as the pain subsided, then what filled in behind it was numbness and that was really scary.”
Those feelings of terror led Gordon to the Diabetes Institutes at Eastern Virginia Medical School where researchers are experimenting with nerve regeneration.
Diabetes Research Institutes, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA:
“Nerve growth factor is the first attempt we’re making, actually to induce nerve regrowth and treat the disease itself…not simply the symptom complex of pain, or numbness or tingling or burning or so forth.”
Nerve growth factor is a hormone that spurs the growth of nerve cells in the fetus. Researchers can now create that substance and make nerves regrow.
Although Gordon doesn’t know if he is getting the growth factor or not, he thinks he is getting the hormone because of his body’s response the past three months. “I felt a mosquito land on my foot and bite me. I hadn’t felt a mosquito on my foot in a long, long time.”
“The perfect candidate would be somebody who has relatively free of other complications of diabetes and has a relatively mild form of nerve damage, so that the nerve fibers are not totally dead.”