Diabetic neuropathic pain is a common and devastating complication of type 1 diabetes, but the mechanism by which it develops and persists is yet to be fully elucidated. This study utilised high-dimensional suspension mass cytometry in a pilot cohort to investigate differences in peripheral blood immunophenotypes between type 1 diabetes patients with (n = 9) and without (n = 9) peripheral neuropathic pain. The abundance and activation of several leukocyte subsets were investigated with unsupervised clustering approaches FlowSOM and SPADE, as well as by manual gating. Major findings included a proportional increase in CD4+ central memory T cells and an absolute increase in classical monocytes, non-classical monocytes, and mature natural killer cells in type 1 diabetes patients with pain compared to those without pain. The expression of CD27, CD127, and CD39 was upregulated on select T cell populations, and the phosphorylated form of pro-inflammatory transcription factor MK2 was upregulated across most populations. These results provide evidence that distinct immunological signatures are associated with painful neuropathy in type 1 diabetes patients. Further research may link these changes to mechanisms by which pain in type 1 diabetes is initiated and maintained, paving the way for much needed targeted treatments.
Keywords: CD27; Chronic pain; Diabetic neuropathy; FlowSOM; Immunophenotyping; MAPKAPK2; MK2; Mass cytometry; SPADE; Type 1 diabetes.
© 2021 The Authors.