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Opioid addiction has been the scourage of society, resulting in countless deaths and destroying scores of people's lives.
But pain is real, and for many people hard to live with void of medication. Finding non-addictive treatments is the goal of researchers across the world. A group of them, hailing from the University of Sydney, have discovered what someday could be a non-opioid, non-addictive pain management system, using human stem cells.
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Researchers use stem cells to remove pain
For the first time ever, researchers were able to make neurons that killed the pain sensation and provided lasting relief in mice. The group of researchers used human induced pluripotent stem cells that came from bone marrow to create cells that killed the pain. They were then placed in the spinal cord of mice that had severe neuropathic pain. There were no side effects and all it took was a single treatment.
"Nerve injury can lead to devastating neuropathic pain and for the majority of patients there are no effective therapies," said University of Sydney Associate Professor Greg Neely, a leader in pain research at the Charles Perkins Centre and the School of Life and Environmental Sciences in a press release announcing the results of the research. "This breakthrough means for some of these patients, we could make pain-killing transplants from their own cells, and the cells can then reverse the underlying cause of pain."
Human trials coming soon
The team of researchers are conducting extensive safety tests in rodents and pigs and will then test with humans suffering from chronic pain. Human trials could begin within the next five years. The idea with the treatment is to target the parts of the body where the pain is present, which in turn lowers the chances of side effects.
"Remarkably, the stem-cell neurons promoted lasting pain relief without side effects," co-senior author Dr. Leslie Caron said. "It means transplant therapy could be an effective and long-lasting treatment for neuropathic pain. It is very exciting." Their work was published in peer journal Pain.