Sunday, 2 April 2017

Lasers May Be Able To Repair Damaged Nerve Sheaths.

Today's post from (see link below) is an article from an Australian website that reports on what could be the next big thing regarding neuropathy treatment. I know...I can hear you sighing...after so many 'next big things' that turn out to be false dawns, we tend to view new findings with some skepticism don't we? However, the science behind this one seems to be solid and although many more studies are needed (as always), the idea that non-invasive laser treatment may be able to repair damaged myelin sheaths (insulation around the nerves) is a very attractive one. Also encouraging; the Brazilian lab admits it doesn't know why this seems to work but they have some theories that time will either prove or disprove. It may be a question from a dumb onlooker but precisely where do you apply the laser treatment? The very nature of peripheral neuropathy means that the damaged nerves can be very hard to pin down and identify. Just because the pain is in the feet or hands, doesn't mean that the damage is there also. I guess we'll just have to wait and see but this is one of those research discoveries you hope will turn out to be true and workable for us long-term sufferers.

Neuropathic pain? Science says lasers can help.
31 March 2017 /

 Recent studies at the University of São Paulo's Biomedical Science Institute (ICB-USP) in Brazil shows low-level laser therapy to be a non-invasive and effective alternative for treating neuropathic pain, a chronic condition caused by nerve damage, spinal cord injury or diseases such as diabetes.

The treatment in a model of diabetic neuropathy, one of the most common chronic and incapacitating complications of diabetes, was tested. Neuropathic pain in diabetes occurs when the disease is not properly controlled and excessive amounts of blood sugar cause oxidation of the myelin sheath, damaging the structure of peripheral nerves. As well as causing pain, this degenerative process impairs communication among neurons and can even lead to amputation of the lower limbs.

"We tested laser therapy in different rat neuropathy models, and behavioral responses improved in all of them," Professor Marucia Chacur, the principal investigator, said. "One of the beneficial effects observed was myelin sheath recovery. The myelin sheath is a lipid layer that covers the axon and acts as electrical insulation to assist nerve impulse propagation."

With the aid of a transmission electron microscope, the researchers found that as diabetes progressed, the structure of the sciatic nerve's myelin sheath changed. After four sessions of the treatment, however, the myelin had almost completely recovered.

"The condition of the nerve practically returned to baseline levels after treatment. We're now continuing the study by analyzing protein expression and the release of inflammatory cytokines to understand exactly what's happening," Chacur said.

In a second study, treatment focused on the sciatic nerve, and found that astrocytes - star-shaped cells that play an active role in brain function and inflammatory responses - were the first type of cell to migrate to the site of a nerve injury or inflammatory process. These cells release several inflammatory mediators, which in turn trigger the release of other inflammatory substances.

"We believe the laser curtails this chain reaction as if it were anti-inflammatory medication, by reducing the migration of astrocytes to the site of the injury," Chacur said.

The third model used to test low-level laser therapy focused on orofacial pain, involving the inferior alveolar nerve, one of the branches of the trigeminal nerve responsible for innervating the face. Phototherapy started two days after injury and improvement was observed after two sessions.

"We set out to understand the mechanisms and mediators involved because we believed phototherapy could be used in association with pharmacological treatment because it acts via a different pathway. In this way, it may be possible to reduce the drug dose and mitigate the systemic effects of the treatment," Chacur said.

The results suggest that all three models of neuropathic pain studied share a common mechanism involving myelin sheath regeneration and reduced astrocyte migration to the site of the lesion, she added.

"Evidence in the literature also suggests an effect on mitochondria. The laser apparently facilitates the flow of calcium in these organelles, boosting production of ATP [adenosine triphosphate, the body's cellular fuel] and leading to enhanced healing as well as the release of mediators that assist remodeling. In future studies, we plan to investigate this effect on mitochondria more thoroughly," Chacur concluded.

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