BAR HARBOR – An inspiring discovery that could save the lives of millions is being developed to reverse peripheral nerve damage.
Who would have thought little fish in a tank can potentially save millions?
Sandra Rieger has always loved people. She entered the bio-medical field so that she could help them. Little did she know, she would be the front runner of a study that can reverse a condition that can be a common side effect from chemotherapy.
“Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that combines multiple conditions,” said Rieger.
While they are still trying to find the cause, those with type 2 diabetes are at great risk of getting it.
“It can lead to symptoms such as tingling, numbness, pain and when it affects the motor system. It can lead to muscle weakness and can lead to organ failure and death,” she said.
It is in a small lab, using a microscope and fish embryos where Rieger spends hours a day studying these findings. Rieger has been using zebra fish for her studies because of their rapid growth and similarities to human genes.
“These embryos are transparent, so we can visualize cells with florescent markers in the living animal and study how nerves degenerate over time,” she said.
To continue the research, Rieger received a $249,000 grant from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The grant will be used to analyze changes in skin.
“One of the perplexing findings is that not all patients respond to chemotherapeutic agents the same way,” Rieger said.
As of now, patients have to stop chemotherapy in order to treat the neuropathy.
“The inhibitors that we found can treat peripheral neuropathy, but can treat the cancer as well,” she said.
According to Kevin Strange, Ph.D., currently there are no effective treatments for the causes of peripheral neuropathy but it is being tested on humans. Rieger is hopeful that her research will find a cure.