Aims: The management of painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy (pDPN) is inadequate because the disease mechanisms are not fully understood. We assessed cerebral cellular bioenergetics using phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P-MRS) to determine whether high energy phosphate metabolite levels are altered in the pain processing regions of the brain in pDPN.

Methods: A total of 66 subjects, 44 with type 2 diabetes (12 no-DPN, 13 painless-DPN and 19 pDPN) and 12 healthy volunteers (HV), underwent detailed clinical and neurophysiological assessments, and 31P-MRS brain imaging at 3-Tesla (Ingenia, Phillips Healthcare) with voxels placed over the right somatosensory cortex and the thalamus (TR 4s, TR 0.26ms, voxel size 21 x 21 x 40mm3). Measures reflecting cellular bioenergetics (mitochondrial function), ATP to phosphocreatine (PCr) and inorganic phosphate (Pi) ratios (ATP:PCr and ATP:Pi) were calculated.

Results: There was a significant group effect in the ATP:PCr ratio at the thalamus (p=0.016) and somatosensory cortex (p=0.025). The ATP:PCr at the thalamus was significantly higher in the pDPN group (0.50±0.06) compared to HV (0.44±0.04, p=0.024) and no-DPN (0.42±0.07, p=0.006). Moreover, the ATP:PCr ratio at the somatosensory cortex was significantly higher in pDPN (0.48 ±0.1) compared to HV (0.38 ±0.1, p=0.035). In addition, the ratio correlated with the numeric pain score ratings during the MRI scan at both brain regions.

Conclusions: This is the first study to use 31P-MRS to study cerebral energetics in human-DPN and peripheral painful neuropathies. We demonstrated significantly higher ATP:PCr ratios in patients with pDPN in the somatosensory cortex and thalamus, which correlated with pain severity. This is suggestive of increased cellular energy usage in pain processing regions of the brain, perhaps due to continuous nociceptive inputs. Altered cerebral phosphorus metabolite ratios may serve as a biomarker of neuropathic pain in diabetes.


G.P. Sloan: None. A. Anton: None. D. Selvarajah: None. S. Tesfaye: Advisory Panel; Self; Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation, Wörwag Pharma. Speaker’s Bureau; Self; Abbott, AstraZeneca, Grunenthal Group, Napp Pharmaceuticals, Novo Nordisk Inc., Pfizer Inc. I.D. Wilkinson: None.

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