Saturday, November 14, 2015

Flexible, Implantable Device Could Block Pain Signals

Mice with implantable devices

The field of optogenetics - which employs genetically encoded switches that turn neurons on or off with light - has taken a step forward because scientists have created flexible, implantable, wireless devices that can activate and potentially block pain signals in the body before they make it to the brain. In a new study, researchers from Washington University of Medicine and the University of Illinois have built on wireless technology to create the flexible devices that can be implanted under the skin - without the need for batteries. Study author Prof. Robert W. Gereau IV, from the Washington University Pain Center, explains that previously, such devices had to be "anchored" to bone, whereas the new devices are held in place with sutures. The benefit of these new devices is that they enable scientists to work with neurons in the spinal cord or other locations outside of the central nervous system

For the study, Prof, Gereau and his team experimented with genetically engineered mice with light sensitive proteins on specific nerve cells. They established that their implants could disrupt the pain pathway in nerve cells by triggering a pain response using light. For example, mice would walk through a certain area in a maze, the researchers would activate the devices, which would cause discomfort for the mice. The researchers would turn off the devices as the mice left that area, so the mice learned to steer clear of that specific area in the maze. The researchers explained that the technology could now be used to block these pain signals, providing hope for patients with untreatable pain.

Pain is a distressing feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli, such as stubbing a toe, burning a finger, bumping the "funny bone", etc. Some people have pain that just won't go away because it is untreatable. This study will help combat this because Prof. Gereau's implants could now be used to block pain. This new technology will help lots of people, who are dealing with untreatable pain, in the future. Prof. Gereau explained that the implants could be made readily available, so it won't be long until these implants are out there.

Original article here 

No comments:

Post a Comment