A Cooling, Implantable Device For Pain Relief

This story on pain relief is part of an extended series on Regenerative Medicine. For other stories on this topic see williamhaseltine.com and search for Regenerative Medicine. My definition of Regenerative Medicine is any medical modality that returns us to normal health when we are damaged by disease, injured by trauma, disadvantaged by birth, or worn by time. Modalities include: chemicals, genes, proteins and cells used as drugs, gene editing, prosthetics, and mind-machine interfaces. 

Scientists at Northwestern University have recently engineered a new pain-relieving device that uses temperature control to block pain signals to the brain. The device is a small, flexible implant that could serve as a replacement for opioids or other highly addictive medications.

The misuse of opioids is an ongoing crisis in the United States that has only grown since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this, there are very few alternative treatments for pain relief that are as effective, leading to widespread usage of opioids and increased rates of opioid addiction and overdose.

Previous studies have shown that pain signals can be blocked from the brain by using cooling implants that lower the temperature of specific nerves. By decreasing their temperature, researchers can decrease the activity of the nerves and inhibit the release of pain signals. However, cooling implants have historically been bulky, imprecise, and have required additional surgeries to remove once the patient no longer needs them.

Now, in a paper published in the journal Nature, Reeder et al. describes how they developed a new pain-relieving implant that is not only highly precise but can also be absorbed by the body after use, by-passing the need for any extraction surgeries.


Read the full article on Forbes.

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.