Each week a new medical miracle that was inconceivable five years ago is announced, along with the promise that it will enable us to live longer. In fact, experts predict that South Korean women will enjoy a life expectancy of over 90 years by 2030. The only downside to living longer is that the chronic pains of those middle and later years will be lasting longer as well.
Happily ,there may be a new medical miracle to handle that now, as well.
Scientists from Monash University have developed a new drug delivery strategy able to block pain within the nerve cells. The results promise an immediate and long lasting treatment for pain.
In the U.S. we spend over $600 billion annually on pain treatments which are often inadequate, buggy and riddled with side effects. More than 100 million Americans complain of chronic pain.
How does pain work? A protein known as NK1 is the linchpin, the vehicle through which pain is delivered through the nervous system and into your cells. That’s something science has known for years, and biochemists and drug manufacturers have long been at work creating products and techniques which inhibit the NK1 receptor.
The research out of Monash U shows where their targeting has been a little off. They learned that the NK-1 receptor controls pain once it is inside a cell – so all those drugs that merely block it when it is on the surface of the cell have little effect. Using animal models, the Monash scientists have demonstrated that by blocking the receptor once it enters the nerve cell, it is possible to suppress pain more effectively.
To prove their thesis, the team developed drugs that specifically target NK-1 receptors within the nerve cell. They have demonstrated how the medications could block pain for extended periods in several animal models.
Study co-author Dr. Meritxell Canals said: “This is a proof-of-concept study that shows that we can re-engineer current pain drugs and make them more effective. The challenge is now to translate the technology into human clinical trials. This is a complex and challenging path – but the ultimate benefits to patients with nerve pain are potentially highly significant.”
The research has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.