A new study has laid out a method for treating chronic pain, but will it actually work?
Chronic pain ails countless people around the globe, and so far the best treatments medicine can offer often carry harmful side effects like dependency. According to a report from UPI, however, scientists may have just stumbled upon a new treatment that would eliminate chronic pain for good.
Researchers genetically altered mice such that they lacked a nerve channel involved in sending a pain signal to the brain. Nav1.7, a sodium channel in the nervous system has been shown to play a significant role in signaling for pain. Some people are born with a faulty Nav1.7 channel, preventing them from feeling the sensation of pain. While this can be dangerous for many reasons, it also offers a window into potential treatments for pain that simply won’t stop.
Typical pain medications that block channels across a broad spectrum can work in a pinch, but have many problems associated with long-term use. Some of the most common pain medications, the opioid class, are extremely addictive and have raised serious concerns among public health officials calling for an alternative treatment.
According to professor John Wood of the University College of London, it took roughly ten years of intense research to determine that Nav1.7 was a key component of the human pain system. Using opioid peptides, Wood and his research team have filed a patent for a drug that would specifically target the Nav1.7 channel, significantly lowering the dosage and subsequently the risk for addiction.
The new drug configuration has been successfully tested in mice that were not modified to have faulty Nav1.7 channel. They gave mice naloxone, an opioid blocker, and found that the mice were capable of feeling pain. They performed the same experiment on a 39-year-old woman who had faulty Nav1.7 channels, and she reported feeling pain for the first time in her life.
Wood hopes that he can begin human trials with low-level opioid treatments. By focusing directly on the Nav1.7 channel, people suffering from chronic pain could see all the benefits of opioid painkillers without the risk of developing a dangerous addiction.
A press release from the University College London describing the study can be found here.