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Papers of the Week

2021 Dec 07

Curr Diabetes Rev

Role of Mechanoinsensitive Nociceptors in Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy.


Nemenov MI, Singleton RJ, Premkumar LS
Curr Diabetes Rev. 2021 Dec 07.
PMID: 34879806.


The cutaneous mechanisms that trigger spontaneous neuropathic pain in diabetic peripheral neuropathy (PDPN) are far from clear. Two types of nociceptors are found within the epidermal and dermal skin layers. Small-diameter lightly myelinated Aδ and unmyelinated C cutaneous mechano and heat sensitive (AMH and CMH) and C mechanoinsensitive (CMi) nociceptors transmit pain from the periphery to central nervous system. AMH and CMH fibers are mainly located in the epidermis and CMi fibers are distributed in the dermis. In DPN, dying back intra-epidermal AMH and CMH fibers leads to reduced pain sensitivity and the patients exhibit significantly increased pain thresholds to acute pain, when tested using traditional methods. The role of CMi fibers in painful neuropathies has not been fully explored. Microneurography has been the only tool to access CMi fibers and differentiate AMH, CMH and CMi fiber types. Due to the complexity, its use is impractical in clinical settings. In contrast, a newly developed diode laser fiber selective stimulation (DLss) technique allows to safely and selectively stimulate Aδ and C fibers in the superficial and deep skin layers. DLss data demonstrate that patients with painful DPN have increased Aδ fiber pain thresholds, while C-fiber thresholds are intact because in these patients CMi fibers are abnormally spontaneously active. It is also possible to determine the involvement of CMi fibers by measuring the area of DLss-induced neurogenic axon reflex flare. The differences in AMH, CMH and CMi fibers allow to identify patients with painful and painless neuropathy. In this review, we will discuss the role of CMi fibers in PDPN.