Chronic pain can be relieved by transplanting stem cells, according to a new study published on Thursday in Neuron.
In the study, the researchers transplanted embryonic nerve cells, which can be found in the brain during development, into mice according to Science Daily. They then used them to make up for lost function of specific neurons in the spinal cord, which usually dampen pain signals.
The study was done by UCSF scientists, and, if effective in humans, could possibly cure the conditions that cause constant pain.
Allan Basbaum, PhD, chair of the Department of Anatomy at UCSF, the senior author of the study, stated:
“Now we are working toward the possibility of potential treatments that might eliminate the source of neuropathic pain, and that may be much more effective than drugs that aim only to treat symptomatically the pain that results from chronic, painful conditions.”
ABC News reports that Basbaum explained chronic pain by saying:
“One of the major causes of neuropathic pain is the loss of inhibitory control at the level of the spinal cord because of nerve loss or dysfunction. The idea was to replace or repopulate the spinal cord cells that provide that inhibition.”
Basbaum praised the results of the test, which noted that the chronic pain in the test mice “completely disappeared.” He further stated, according to ABC News, that:
“The clinical significance is that we think we’re actually modifying the disease, not just treating the symptoms. Instead of taking a drug to suppress the pain, we’re trying to normalize the circuit that was damaged by the disease or the injury. The cells repopulate, they integrate, and basically they treat the disease.”
The next step in research for the scientists is to implant the cells into humans, to see if they give the same reaction.