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Treatment blocks pain without disrupting other functions
Date:10/3/2007

mes in. It opens large pores called TRPV1 channels found only within the cell membrane of pain-sensing neurons. With these channels propped open by capsaicin, QX-314 can pass through and selectively block the cells activity.

The research team, led by Clifford J. Woolf, M.D., Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and Bruce Bean, Ph.D., at Harvard Medical School, tested the combination of capsaicin and QX-314 in neurons isolated in Petri dishes and found that it blocked pain-sensing neurons without affecting other nerve cells. They then injected the drugs into the paws of rats and found that the treated animals could tolerate much more heat than usual. They also injected the two drugs near the sciatic nerve that runs down the hind leg. The treated rats did not show any signs of pain, and five of the six animals continued to move and behave normally. This showed that the drugs could block pain without impairing motor neurons that control movement.

The drug combination took half an hour to fully block pain in the rats. However, once it began, the pain relief lasted for several hours.

"Current nerve blocks cause paralysis and total numbness," Dr. Woolf says. "This new strategy could profoundly change pain treatment in the perioperative setting."

The treatment tested in this study is unique in that it uses a type of ion channel (TRPV1 channels) as an avenue to deliver medication. Ion channels are pores in the cell membrane that control the flow of electrically charged ions in and out of cells. "I'm not aware of any other strategy that uses a channel within cells to deliver a drug to a select set of cells," Dr. Woolf says. The strategy builds on research done since the 1970's, largely supported by NIH, that shows how electrical signaling in the nervous system results from expression of dozens of different types of ion channels. Some of these ion channels are found only in specific types of neurons.
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Contact: Natalie Frazin
301-496-5924
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Source:Eurekalert

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