The world of nerve signaling and conduction is very fast-paced and also very minute. The reason for this is of course the need for animals to be able to convey information quickly around the body in the form of low amplitude signal to be able to react quickly to a given situation. This makes study of these phenomena inherently difficult. Thus, in order to actually study this field, certain measures have historically been necessary. They include immobilizing and anaesthetising the animal being studied and opening them up and possibly removing tissue for study in vitro. Such measures have been necessary because of the very fast and low amplitude nature of nervous signaling, which any disturbing or noise creating element, such as animal movement, will completely mask. However, technology is now reaching the point, where recordings from an awake and active animal’s nervous system are possible. This is achieved using small telemetric implants, placed close to the nerves of interest inside the animals, and telemetrically transmitting the recorded data out of the animal, eliminating the need for immobilisation and sedation.
In this project, we aim to appropriate this new technology to a case of clinical interest. We aim to use these implants to monitor the degenerating effect of chronic disease of the peripheral nervous system. Specifically, we will be looking at diabetic neuropathy, a chronic nerve complication caused by diabetes, where peripheral neurons are damaged over time causing pain, insensibility of the extremities, blindness and loss of autonomic tone in the heart. By utilising a telemetric implant, we hope to be able to identify the degenerating effects of diabetic neuropathy earlier then current methods allow and to identify which nerves are causing problems. To investigate this, we will be using diabetic rat models which develop both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and also diabetic neuropathy. Be studying the degeneration of the peripheral nerves in these animal models, we hope to able to gather good and reliable data using this new innovative approach, we could lead to more effective treatment for chronic neurodegenerative diseases in general, and possibly open up a field of study in animal physiology which has hitherto not been technically possible.