A groundbreaking new technique prunes the nerves responsible for neuropathic pain using near-infrared light. The results could help to develop effective relief for this hard-to-treat condition.
Neuropathic pain is caused by either damage or disease in parts of the nervous system.
Its exact symptoms vary from person to person, and they range from odd sensations to intense pain.
In some individuals, a light breeze can trigger significant discomfort, whereas in others, moving just a single hair can provoke excruciating pain.
Affecting as many as 1 in 10 individuals in the United States, neuropathic pain still has no safe and effective treatments that work for everyone.
Most commonly, people with neuropathic pain will manage their symptoms with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, or anti-epileptics, all of which have unpleasant side effects and none of which are effective for all. Also, famously, opioids carry a significant risk of addiction.
Can we treat neuropathic pain?
Earlier research endeavors hunting for potential treatments have focused on targeting specific molecules that are involved in pain pathways. Although there has been some headway, this approach has not yet come up trumps.
The reason seems to be that when you block one or two of the molecules that generate pain, others move in and take their place.
Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Rome, Italy, have designed an innovative approach to neuropathic pain. Their latest findings were published recently in the journal Nature Communications.