Neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), a member of the neurotrophin family, has been shown to be necessary for the development of muscle spindle and Merkel cell afferent nerve fibres in animal models.The presence of NT-3 in the suprabasal epidermis, where many unmyelinated sensory fibres terminate, has been shown for the first time. As these fibres are affected in early diabetic neuropathy and a clinical trial of recombinant human NT-3 in diabetic neuropathy is in progress, the concentrations of endogenous NT-3 in skin of 24 patients at different stages of diabetic polyneuropathy have been investigated. NT-3 concentrations, measured with a specific immunoassay, were significantly higher in affected skin biopsies from patients with diabetic neuropathy than matched control skin (diabetic skin 6.32 (1.18) pg/mg v control skin 1.28 (0.05) (mean (SEM)); p<0.004, Mann-Whitney Utest), particularly in the later stages. The optical density of NT-3-immunostaining was also significantly greater in the epidermis in diabetic patients (diabetic epidermis 0.30 (0.06)v controls 0.24 (0.01); p<0.02). No correlation was found between individual quantitative sensory tests and the increase of NT-3 concentration. The increase of NT-3 seems to reflect the degree of skin denervation in diabetic neuropathy, and may represent a compensatory mechanism. The concentrations of NT-3 in other peripheral targets deserve study in diabetic neuropathy.
- diabetic neuropathy
- human skin
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