New Research for Better Pain Relief

Posted on Aug 02, 2013

In the quest to alleviate suffering in patients with long-term pain, researchers have turned to a new source of inspiration: people who can't feel any pain. As the Wall Street Journal explains,

Research has shown that rare mutations in a gene called SCN9A can give people complete immunity to pain. Now, pharmaceutical companies are aiming to develop drugs to mimic that genetic mutation.

Chronic pain affects approximately 1 in 5 people, and many of them do not respond to standard treatments such as ibuprofen or painkillers. Scientists are hoping that new methods tied to the SCN9A gene can succeed where traditional drugs fail by preventing nerve cells from sending pain signals to the brain.

Nerve cells send these signals with the help of a certain type of protein, called a sodium channel, that forms a pore in the cell's membrane. Inherited mutations in the SCN9A gene block the functioning of these sodium channels, called Nav1.7 sodium channels. The experimental drugs also seek to block them—or at least to blunt their ability to transmit pain.

This new method of pain relief is showing potential, and trials are currently in progress. Along with other alternative, science-based forms of therapy such as the Energeze Patch, these new treatments are ushering in a new understanding of pain relief.

You can read the full story, "The Quest for Better Pain Relief," on the Wall Street Journal's website.