Scientists develop pain-relieving implant device as alternative to addictive drugs

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:


  • Researchers developed an implant device that relieves pain without the use of drugs.
  • The device reduces pain sensitivity by wrapping around nerves and cooling them down.
  • The implant, which offers a non-opioid alternative for pain relief, is water-soluble and will safely dissolve inside the body.

A group of scientists led by Northwestern University has created a dissolvable implant that quickly relieves pain without using drugs, according to a study published in Science

The patient can control the implant by using an external pump that will activate it at the onset of pain. The implant is water-soluble and will just dissolve inside the body.

The five-millimeter-long implant works by wrapping itself around a nerve while the other end is attached to the control pump outside of the skin. The implant device then evaporates a liquid coolant in the nerve, numbing it and blocking pain signals to the brain.

“Excessive cooling can damage the nerve and the fragile tissues around it,” Prof. John Rogers of Northwestern University, who led the device’s development, said. “By monitoring the temperature at the nerve, the flow rates can be adjusted automatically to set a point that blocks pain in a reversible, safe manner.”

Study co-author Dr. Matthew MacEwan of Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis said the implant specifically targets peripheral nerves — which connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Dr. MacEwan added that “by delivering a cooling effect to just one or two targeted nerves, we can effectively modulate pain signals in one specific region of the body.”

The researchers believe the implant will be a safe alternative to opioids and other highly addictive drugs. They predict it will benefit people who undergo routine surgeries and amputees who require post-surgery medications for pain management.

Rogers told Smithsonian that further studies are needed before the device, which was previously tested on lab rats, can be tested on humans. He says more must be learned about the human body to make the device more biocompatible and prevent possible side effects.

Source: The Guardian

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