JAN 26, 2020 10:59 AM PST

Using Stem Cells to Treat Chronic Pain

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Reporting in the journal Pain, scientists have used a mouse model to show that human stem cells could be used to engineer neurons that stop pain and provide long-lasting relief with only one treatment. Now, the researchers will be able to move this work to another animal model, and after testing in rodents and pigs, it will be ready for trials in humans that are experiencing chronic pain. They are hopeful that those human clinical trials will commence within five years.

Image credit: Pixnio

"We are already moving towards testing in humans," noted Associate Professor Greg Neely, a pain research leader at the Charles Perkins Centre and the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney. "Nerve injury can lead to devastating neuropathic pain and for the majority of patients there are no effective therapies. 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."

This approach could also help create more effective options for pain relief that don't involve the risk inherent to opioids.  

In this study, the researchers created human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), using a Nobel-prize winning technique that has helped scientists realize the potential of stem cells; they have the potential to become any type of cell and could be used to replace damaged or defective cells. In this case, they were used to generate neurons (specifically GABAergic neurons), which were then injected into the spinal cords of mice that were models of neuropathic pain. This approach gave the mice pain relief, reported the researchers.

GABAergic neurons can create a constant inhibitory stimulus. Loss of this inhibitory signaling has been connected to neuropathic pain. This therapeutic approach serves to treat that loss.

"Remarkably, the stem-cell neurons promoted lasting pain relief without side effects," said the co-senior study author Dr. Leslie Caron. "It means transplant therapy could be an effective and long-lasting treatment for neuropathic pain. It is very exciting."

"Because we can pick where we put our pain-killing neurons, we can target only the parts of the body that are in pain. This means our approach can have fewer side effects," added the lead study author, graduate student John Manion.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of Sydney, Pain

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 10, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 10, 2019
Household Dust Samples Found to Contain Potentially Toxic LCD Chemicals
Our technology may be impacting our health in ways we did not realize....
DEC 15, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 15, 2019
Using a Bacterial Syringe to Deliver Proteins to Cells
Researchers want to use a pathogen's strategy for therapeutic purposes....
DEC 17, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 17, 2019
A New Tool for Assessing the Impact of Drugs on Single Cells
When scientists assess the impact of a treatment like a drug on cells, they usually generally rely on large populations of cells to find general trends....
JAN 08, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 08, 2020
In a First, Scientists Generate Early Human Immune Cells in the Lab
Now we know more about the early stages of the human immune system....
JAN 16, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 16, 2020
Understanding the Restorative Power of Sleep
Scientists have learned more about how sleep gets us ready to face the challenges of the day....
FEB 23, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 23, 2020
Using Cranberries and Citrus to Remove Viruses From Food
Noroviruses can contaminate fresh produce and in developed nations, they are the most common cause of gastroenteritis....
Loading Comments...