Decoy Molecule Could Stymie Chronic Pain

rnaResearchers at the University of Texas at Dallas believe they have created a new weapon in the war against chronic pain. According to researchers, they say they’ve created an RNA-mimicking molecule that can block a series of pain sensations that normally occur after an injury. By studying how this molecule interacts with pain sensations, researchers believe they may be able to develop a new class of drugs that can prevent pain at the outset without increasing a person’s risk of addiction.

“Our results indicate that local treatment with the decoy can prevent pain and inflammation brought about by a tissue injury,” said study lead author Dr. Zachary Campbell.

He believes the findings are very important because chronic pain-related conditions are “the primary reason Americans are on disability.”

“Poorly treated pain causes enormous human suffering,” said Dr. Campbell, “as well as a tremendous burden on medical care systems and our society.”

Cutting In To Opioid Abuse

Opioid addiction and overdoses have increased in recent years as more people turn to pills to help manage their pain. In the right hands with the right dosage, opioids can play an integral role in a pain management plan. However, opioids can be a slippery slope to addiction if they are abused, which is why researchers are looking to develop new medications that are abuse deterrent.

Our current opioids have a major disadvantage in that they interact with areas of our brain that deal with reward and emotion. This can lead to a craving or addiction to the reward stimulus that the drugs provide, but by studying the artificial RNA-molecule, we may be able to develop drugs that stop pain in other areas of the body without crossing the brain-blood barrier.

This artificial molecule works in nociceptors, which are special cells at the injury site that help send pain signals to the brain. After the injury, RNA molecules begin the process of facilitating proteins that signal pain. By mimicking RNA, the decoy molecule can interrupt this process that makes these proteins, and reduce our body’s behavioral response to pain.

“When you have an injury, certain molecules are made rapidly. With this Achilles’ heel in mind, we set out to sabotage the normal series of events that produce pain at the site of an injury,” said. Dr. Campbell. “In essence, we eliminate the potential for a pathological pain state to emerge.”

This is certainly an interesting development, and I hope it opens up new ways to combat chronic pain. We’ll keep an eye out for more information about this protein in the coming years, as it may have big implications for how pain is managed.

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).

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