Plasma deoxy-sphingoid bases are elevated in type 2 diabetes patients and correlate with the stage of diabetic distal sensorimotor polyneuropathy; however, associations between deoxy-sphingolipids (DSL) and neuropathy in type 1 diabetes have not been examined. The primary aim of this exploratory pilot study was to assess the associations between multiple sphingolipid species including DSL and free amino acids and the presence of symptomatic neuropathy in a DCCT/EDIC type 1 diabetes subcohort. Using mass spectroscopy, plasma levels of DSL and free amino acids in DCCT/EDIC type 1 diabetes participants (n = 80), with and without symptoms of neuropathy, were investigated. Patient-determined neuropathy was based on 15-item self-administered questionnaire (Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument) developed to assess distal symmetrical peripheral neuropathy in diabetes. Patients who scored ≥4, or reported inability to sense their feet during walking or to distinguish hot from cold water while bathing were considered neuropathic. Plasma levels of ceramide, sphingomyelin, hexosyl- and lactosylceramide species, and amino acids were measured and analyzed relative to neuropathy status in the patient. Deoxy-C24-ceramide, C24- and C26-ceramide were higher in patients with neuropathy than those without neuropathy. Cysteine was higher in patients with neuropathy. No differences in other sphingolipids or amino acids were detected. The covariate-adjusted Odds Ratios of positive patient-reported neuropathy was associated with increased levels of deoxy-C24-, and deoxy-C24:1-ceramide; C22-, C24-, and C26-ceramide; and cysteine. Plasma deoxy-ceramide and ceramide species may have potential diagnostic and prognostic significance in diabetic neuropathy.
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