Drug May Combat the Effects of Neurodegenerative Condition of Diabetes

Author:  Darcy Ross
Institution:  University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign
Date:  November 2010

Researchers from the University of Kansas recently developed a drug that may bring relief to millions of diabetics who suffer from diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), a painful neurodegenerative complication. DPN results in pain from even light touches and ends in nerve death, complete loss of sensation, and sometimes amputation. In their April 11th paper (published online in ASN Neuro), the researchers explained that increasing the production of a protein called Hsp-70 (heat-shock protein 70) reverses this neural degeneration.

Being a regulatory protein, Hsp-90 controls Hsp-70 production. The synthesized drug, KU-32, was designed to latch onto Hsp-90 and inhibit its activity, which allows Hsp-70 production to go on unhindered. The KU-32 trials were conducted on mice, but the researchers hope to begin conducting human trials within two years.

It is not yet known how Hsp-70 combats and reverses the effects of DPN, but the team will continue investigating this in the near future. In addition, the researchers want to know details about the timing of the drug's activity. "We'd like to know at what stage in the progression of DPN a window of opportunity exists for the beneficial use of KU-32," said co-author and Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology Rick Dobrowski.

Only two other FDA-approved drugs are available for DPN treatment, but neither have the capacity to reverse the damage already done by DPN. Apart from doing its job extremely well, KU-32 also appears to be a fairly safe drug. "Our tests so far indicate that KU-32 is completely nontoxic and is absorbed in the blood stream very well," said Brian Blagg, a co-author and Professor of Medicinal Chemistry.


1. Brian S.J. Blagg and Rick T. Dobrowsky. (2010) Inhibiting heat-shock protein 90 reverses sensory hypoalgesia in diabetic mice. ASN NEURO 2(4):art:e00040.doi:10.1042/AN20100015

2. PhysOrg News. Drug holds promise to halt debilitating condition of diabetes. (10 September 2010) http://www.physorg.com/news203337267.html

Author: Darcy Ross

Reviewed by: Mai Truong, Renee Gilberti, and Yangguang Ou

Published by: Maria Huang