Diabetic neuropathy is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy and a serious complication of diabetes. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) stimulates angiogenesis and has neurotrophic and neuroprotective activities. To examine the efficiency of VEGF 164 electro-gene therapy for neuropathy, intramuscular VEGF 164 gene transfer by electroporation was performed to treat sensory neuropathy in diabetic mice.
VEGF 164 was overexpressed in the tibial anterior (TA) muscles of streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice with hypoalgesia, using a VEGF 164 plasmid injection with electroporation. From 2 weeks after electro-gene transfer, the nociceptive threshold was measured weekly using the paw-pressure test. The TA muscles, sciatic nerve, liver and spleen were histochemically examined at 4 weeks after electro-gene transfer.
Two weeks after electro-gene transfer into the bilateral TA muscles, the elevated nociceptive threshold was decreased to a normal level in all treated mice. Improvement of the hypoalgesia continued for 14 weeks. When the VEGF 164 plasmid was injected with electroporation into a unilateral TA muscle, recovery from hypoalgesia was observed in not only the ipsilateral hindpaw, but also the contralateral one, suggesting that VEGF circulates in the blood. No increase in the number of endoneurial vessels in the sciatic nerve was found in the VEGF 164 plasmid-electroporated mice.
These findings suggest that VEGF 164 electro-gene therapy completely recovered the sensory deficits, i.e. hypoalgesia, in the diabetic mice through mechanisms other than angiogenesis in the endoneurium of the peripheral nerve, and may be useful for treatment for diabetic sensory neuropathy in human subjects. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.