Stem cells may treat and cure chronic nerve pain
In a new study from the UCSF it was found that stem cells may treat and cure chronic pain caused by nerve injury.
In the study from University of California San Francisco that was published in the May 24th 2012 issue of Neuron, scientists found that they may not only be able to treat chronic nerve pain, but a cure is possible for some types of neuropathic conditions. Using immature embryonic stem cells from the brain, the scientists then transplanted them into adult mouse spinal cords. A small number of these cells survived and matured, then headed off to form synapses and signaling patterns with other neighboring neurons.
This decreased pain hypersensitivity, and in many cases, almost completely eliminated it. Although the stem cells worked in cases with peripheral nerve damage and chronic neuropathy, the same transplantation did not work with inflammatory pain. More research will need to be done in this area.
Peripheral nerve damage can be caused from shingles, among other things. Pain hypersensitivity occurs as a result. Pain hypersensitivity can be explained as the person getting a very light touch and the result is perceived as very painful, according to Senior Author, Allan Basbaum PhD, Chair of the Department of Anatomy at UCSF. He explains that this type of chronic pain is often debilitating for the person.
In a world where there is little relief for those with chronic neuropathic pain, it can be extremely frustrating that there is very little that helps. Even the medications do not work well. Neurontin, or gabapentin, is a drug that was first used to treat epilepsy, is also used to treat chronic neuropathy. It only helps about 30 percent of people and of those 30 percent, it only relieves about 30 percent of their pain.
This research brings new hope. The goal for the scientists now is to find the possibilities that are inherent with their current findings. They must find where the potential treatments are that are much more effective than current treatments.
The research is in very early stages. The researchers advise that they are a long way from any human trials. But with the very focused effects minus any of the adverse effects usually noted with medications such as Neurontin, stem cell transplants are a very real possibility in the treatment for chronic nerve pain. Not only treatment is possible, but a cure may also be possible as well. The stem cells began new networks with other nerve cells and brought hope to those who suffer each day from chronic neuropathy.
The work for the scientists has just started. Being able to be treated with the stem cells and not have to worry about the movement disturbances that are caused by medications like gabapentin is a true hope for those who suffer everyday from the chronic debiliatating nerve pain. The hope that a cure may be coming sometime in the future gives even more hope.