Pain relief without side effects with a promising technique
The lack of treatment without side effects for long-lasting pain often significantly affects the quality of life of the patients concerned. Without analgesic treatment, the persistent pain makes it difficult for the patient to function in everyday life. Traditional analgesic treatment does reduce pain, but at the same time affects the senses and mental function, and there is a considerable risk of developing drug addiction.
Pain also comes at a considerable cost to society in the form of work stoppages, health care and lost production. According to a recent American report, approximately eight percent of the American population suffers from chronic high impact pain.
In Lund, a research team led by neurophysiology professor Jens Schouenborg has developed a method to combat pain through personalized stimulation using ultra-thin, tissue-friendly microelectrodes.
âThe electrodes are very soft and extremely gentle on the brain. They are used to specifically activate the pain control centers of the brain without simultaneously activating the circuits of the nerve cells that produce side effects. The method involves implanting a group of ultra-thin electrodes and then selecting a subgroup of electrodes that provide pure pain relief, but without side effects. This procedure allows for an extremely precise and personalized stimulation treatment which has proven to be effective for each individual â, explains Jens Schouenborg.
Pain is blocked by activating the pain control centers of the brain, and these in turn only block signal transfer in pain pathways to the cerebral cortex.
âWe have been able to almost completely block pain without affecting any other sensory system or motor skills, which is a major breakthrough in pain research. Our results show that it is indeed possible to develop powerful pain relief without side effects, which has been a major challenge so far, âexplains Matilde Forni, doctoral student and first author of the new pain study. .
During the project, which has lasted for several years, the researchers developed gelatin-based technology and tissue-friendly surgical techniques that allowed flexible microelectrodes to be implanted with great precision. According to the researchers, the new technique should work on all kinds of pain carried by the spinal cord, that is, most types of pain.
The most common form of pain relief today is the use of medication.
âIn our study, we also compared our method to morphine, which was found to provide significantly less pain relief. In addition, of course, morphine has a powerful sedating effect as well as other cognitive effects. In the study, we were also able to show that pain after sensitization (hyperalgesia), which is common in chronic pain, was blocked, âexplains Jens Schouenborg.
The study in Lund was carried out on rats. Could the results be transferable to humans?
” That’s the point. The human brain has control systems similar to those of the rat and our electrode designs can be adapted to humans, âexplains Matilde Forni.
The researchers hope that within five to eight years, the method will lead to satisfactory stimulation treatment for people with particularly severe pain, such as cancer pain or chronic pain associated with spinal cord injuries, for which no treatment. satisfactory pain is only available today.
The researchers also believe that the method could be used more broadly to treat conditions other than pain.
âIn principle, the method can be adapted to all parts of the brain, so we believe that it could also be used in the treatment of degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease as well as in depression, epilepsy and possibly strokes. The electrode technique also has applications in diagnostics and in particular in research on the functioning of the mysterious brain, âexplains Jens Schouenborg.