New discovery may revolutionize treatment for pain related to surgery, illness and injury

For those suffering from pain, scientists from UCLA and the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, report a revolutionary advance in pain medicine that promises to deliver painkillers directly to the affected area of the body, in smaller doses and with fewer side effects.

The researchers report the first clinically suitable method using nerves as a means of safely delivering high doses of painkillers to achieve a therapeutic effect. They announced their research findings at the Society for Neuroscience conference on Nov. 8 in New Orleans, La.

UCLA neurosurgeon Aaron Filler and his colleagues used a method called "axonal transport" to deliver a pain drug to the spinal ganglia and spinal cord, using nerves as a conduit, in an animal model.

Axonal transport works like a "conveyor-belt" process, delivering pain-relieving medication to remote sensory endings in the tissues of the body. In axonal transport, the cell moves molecules from one end of the cell to the other, thus supporting their ability to communicate with other neurons. A single neuron may be more than two feet long.

Although axonal transport has played a role in thousands of research studies in the past, this is the first-ever report of a positive clinical effect with a potential human medication. The new technology uses a novel molecular structure to achieve clinically effective dosing in targeted groups of nerves, Filler said.

This work marks an important advance, because drug treatment of nervous-system disorders is often hindered and sometimes precluded when the precise site of the injury or disease cannot be reached with adequate levels of pain medicine without causing unwanted side effects. Delivery of painkillers directly to selected target sites can avoid undesired toxicity, as well as inappropriate side effects in non-target neural tissue.

Filler says that with this new method of delivering pain medication, one shot administered during surgery coul

Contact: Roxanne Yamaguchi Moster
University of California - Los Angeles

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