A Cure for Pain?

Above: Dr. Eleonora Zakharian

The same receptors that tell your brain when something is hot may provide new answers to addressing chronic pain, say researchers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria. UICOMP was recently awarded $235,000 by the National Institutes of Health to expand a series of studies over the next five years that focus on two “heat-sensitive channels,” or pathways. The research is a collaboration with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Temple University in Pennsylvania.

“When we experience pain, especially through inflammation and thermal stimuli, that’s the pain receptor telling the brain there’s a problem. We’re looking at how we can control or adjust that communication to safely and effectively eliminate pain,” says Dr. Eleonora Zakharian, a lead researcher in the study at UICOMP. 

The research conducted in Peoria includes a state-of-the-art technique called planar lipid bilayers, a method that focuses on a single molecule at a time. The process allows researcher to dissect drugs that directly act on the channel and affect function. The pain receptors, called TRPV1 and TRPM3, also offer a means of addressing pain without the use of addictive opiates, according to Dr. Zakharian. 

Chronic pain is an unmet medical need with associated costs in the U.S. estimated at between $150 billion and $600 billion annually. Current treatment options either have limited effectiveness against severe pain, or when effective, are often addictive. iBi

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