Category Archives: Chronic pain

Chronic pain sufferers: emotional effects, explained

girl sits in a depression on the floor near the wallPeople suffering from chronic pain often have to deal with depression and lack of motivation. It can be difficult to explain to friends and family who say “Just get out and DO something… it will make you feel better!” But now, there’s some science behind the lack of motivation felt by chronic pain sufferers.

Chronic pain, as debilitating as it may be, actually has a purpose. It serves to limit your behavior in such a way as to promote healing and prevent further injuries. And in the process of preventing you from further damage, chronic pain may actually rewire your brain in a way that decreases your motivation.

Researchers found that mice with chronic pain showed decreased motivation, even when they were given painkillers. They looked at a specific area in the brain associated with pain and motivation and found that nerve cells weren’t firing properly. They found that a specific chemical, called galanin, was the key. When galanin receptors were inactivated in this area, neurons began firing properly, and injured mice showed similar motivation to control mice.

Could treatments targeting galanin receptors change brain currents in such a way as to alleviate the lack of motivation that many HUMAN chronic pain sufferers feel? The emotional effects of chronic pain are often just as draining as the physical effects, and this research could bring hope to chronic pain sufferers. Read more about it here:

http://news.yahoo.com/chronic-pain-makes-mice-lazy-153242900.html

Rabbits pilot wireless medical implants

iStock_000003396050SmallMedical advances over the last several decades have resulted in implantable devices that can improve the quality of human and animal lives. The pacemaker and neurostimulator are two of those devices, and with the help of rabbits, researchers are on their way to making some amazing improvements!

When a patient has one of these devices implanted, it’s understood that they will need follow-up surgeries at certain intervals to replace the battery. Pacemaker, neurostimulator, and spinal cord stimulator batteries last, on average, 5-10 years. But recently, researchers have been able to regulate a rabbit’s heart with a pacemaker that operates off wireless energy! This specific implant is only 3mm long. You can imagine the reduced recovery time after a surgery to implant something this size!

While some doctors are skeptical of life-supporting devices relying on external power, researchers are working to adapt this technology for other types of implants as well. Neurostimulator and spinal cord stimulator batteries tend to be about half the size and thickness of a deck of cards, and often, patients experience a good amount of pain at the battery implantation site. Eliminating the need for a battery for these units could make a huge difference for patients- let’s hope that this technology proves successful!

Do YOU have a battery-powered implant? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts- do you think this technology will help you?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25590-wireless-energy-powers-pacemaker-in-live-rabbit.html#.U4J2ifldWSq

Fertility may be affected by a woman’s perception of her environment

Beautiful pregnant woman relaxing in the parkIs it possible that a woman’s fertility is affected by her perception of the safety of her environment? Researchers are trying to figure out how to answer this question, and you’re not going to believe which tiny animals are helping them. Roundworms!

Roundworms reproduce by themselves by carrying around their own sperm AND eggs. And it turns out that when the worm’s environment is favorable (enough nutrition, not too much competition), they reproduce better. A chemical trail from the worm’s nose to its ovaries ramps up production of prostaglandins, which help guide the sperm to the eggs.

Roundworms are a good model for this type of research, because the worm’s skin is transparent, so sperm motility is easy to observe. Now, researchers are expanding on these studies by looking at prostaglandin levels in human patients to see if they’re correlated with fertility. But the thought that smell and the perception of the environment could alter fertility is interesting, and it could possibly lead to therapies that could help humans and animals with fertility problems!

Research in these worms indicates that the production of prostaglandins might be possible in more ways than previously thought, and in addition to possibly answering some questions about fertility, roundworms might be able to give researchers insight into different targets for pain management and cancer treatments. Read more about it here:

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-05-roundworms-fertility.html

Nerves of steel: repairing nerve damage with liquid metal

iStock_000006935624SmallYou probably know that metal is a good conductor of electricity. And if you weren’t aware of that, take my advice and keep the fork away from the toaster.

The body’s nervous system conducts electricity, too. So researchers in Beijing have put two and two together- why not use metal to help repair damaged nerves?

Nerve damage is tricky- not only can it cause a spectrum of different pain sensations, but it’s generally hard to repair. Current methods for grafting nerves back together are risky, and the potential for muscle damage is a concern.

By using a liquid metal alloy (no, not steel, but gallium, indium, and selenium), researchers were able to bridge the gap between nerves in bullfrog legs. They found that this alloy conducted electrical signals about as well as a healthy nerve would! And not to worry- this alloy is a liquid at room temperature, so once the nerve has healed, it can be removed with a syringe. While there are definitely some limitations to the use of metal in the human body, the potential for its use in promoting nerve growth and healing is interesting. Read more about it here:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25510-terminatorstyle-liquid-metal-connects-severed-nerves.html#.U2e2MVfSTkc

The deadliest frog in the world

kermit pixabayAnd the deadliest frog in the world is….

NOT Kermit the Frog. Sorry. Although the idea of a nasty, Russian frog impersonating Kermit is pretty devious, neither Kermit nor the frog masquerading as him in the new Muppets movie hold a candle to the poison dart frog.

golden poison frog pixabayThe golden poison dart frog has enough poison to kill 10 people. It’s believed that their toxicity is related to their diet, as they consume insects that feed on poisonous tropical plants. The frogs absorb this poison and they’re able to secrete it out of glands on their backs when they feel threatened.

I’m definitely a frog lover, so this is fascinating to me! But even if you’re not a fan of these small amphibians, they may affect you more than you realize. By studying the venom of poison dart frogs, researchers are working to develop a synthetic compound intended for pain relief. This non-addictive, non-opioid drug is 200x stronger than morphine. Interested yet?

Frogs, snails, snakes, spiders, centipedes, slugs, and worms may make some people shudder, but the amazing things these animals are teaching us could make a huge difference to you and your loved ones! Some of the deadliest animals in the world helping with some of the deadliest diseases in the world? Unlike Kermit, that’s nothing to laugh at!

Are there animals in YOUR medicine cabinet?

Dog and pills.How have animals helped YOU today? If you’re not familiar with research, you might not have any idea. But did you know that most of our medical advances wouldn’t have been possible without animals? It’s amazing to learn about the ways they’ve helped us!

Antibiotic ointment, aspirin, cold medicines, penicillin, anti-depressants, blood pressure and cholesterol medications, insulin, anti-coagulants, anesthesia, HIV drugs, chemotherapy, dialysis, CT scans, MRIs, prosthetics, organ transplants, and thousands of other medications and procedures were developed and determined to be safe for your use, thanks to dedicated researchers and the animals they work with.

The list goes on. I will guarantee that every person reading this has benefited from at least some of these advances. What’s more, I’ll bet your pets have benefited as well! And that’s a wonderful thing! Think of the symptoms we can alleviate due to medications, the life-threatening emergencies that we can SURVIVE, and the illnesses that our children may never get, thanks to vaccines. Polio, measles, cervical cancer, rabies, chicken pox, whooping cough, tetanus, Hepatitis B- and that’s just the beginning of the list!

EMBRACE it. Be thankful for it. The next time you reach into your medicine cabinet, take a minute to think about the scientific advances that led to the development of the medication that’s about to help you!

http://news.discovery.com/animals/animals-in-your-medicine-cabinet-photos-140204.htm

http://fbresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/AADflyer-hires.pdf

Sleep your way to a cancer-fighting immune system

Little girl and puppy sleepingA good night’s sleep may be more important than you think! New research suggests that interrupted sleep can affect the immune system’s ability to fight off early stage cancers. Tumors in mice that experienced poor quality and intermittent sleep grew faster and invaded surrounding tissues more aggressively than tumors in control mice.

But don’t worry- it’s not all bad news. Although the results of this study weren’t exactly encouraging for the 70 million Americans suffering from sleep problems, researchers were able to identify specific cells in the immune system that drive tumor growth- and this could ultimately help a lot of people.

This is a case where animal studies were really important. Tumor growth can be affected by many different factors, so in controlled research environments, extra precautions can be taken to make sure that only specific variables are introduced. And in this situation, when the only variable in the study was sleep, the results of the study are especially relevant.

Could treatments for cancer patients have a higher success rate if the patients are well-rested? Are patients suffering from insomnia due to chronic pain at a higher risk for developing cancer? Can sleeping with a TV or radio on disrupt your sleep enough to cause health problems? Until we know… try to catch some extra zzz’s tonight, it can’t hurt!

http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/2014/20140127-fragmented-sleep.html

A father, a rare disease, and a second chance

iStock_000014156140SmallHave you ever heard of Pompe disease? It’s a rare degenerative disorder that affects approximately 1 in 40,000 people, and it causes progressive muscle weakness. And children with the disease usually died of heart failure within a few years- that is, until one father did something about it.

John Crowley is a proud father of three, and two of his children have Pompe disease. After his children were diagnosed at extremely young ages and he found out that there was no cure for the disease, he quit his job as a drug company executive and started his own biotech firm- and developed a successful treatment that would keep his childrens’ hearts from failing.

While his children- now 16 and 17 years old- are still facing challenges from this disease, they are most definitely a shining example of hope and determination. A modern-day “Superman” of a father stopped everything to give his kids a chance. And that’s what we need- superheroes on a mission to raise awareness and show the ingenuity and passion required to develop new treatments and cures for rare diseases.

YOU can help. Speak up, raise awareness for these diseases and the children fighting them, and advocate for basic science and advancements made possible through research. Pass this on- share it with your friends and family, and let one father be an example of what we can do with the right amount of determination!

http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304854804579236133090050044?mobile=y

Infertility and adenomyosis answers from a mouse!

iStock_000009922153XSmallAdenomyosis is a gynecological disease that can cause infertility and chronic pelvic pain. While there are some medications that can be used to alleviate symptoms, the only definitive treatment for the disease is a hysterectomy. But now, researchers at Michigan State University have created a mouse model that can help researchers understand processes in the disease’s development. This is significant, because most women with the disease require some type of surgery, and a treatment that allows a woman to avoid a hysterectomy would be ideal.

Until now, there hasn’t been a reliable animal model for this disease, and it will be interesting to see how the development of this new mouse model can help researchers discover a cure for adenomyosis. For women suffering with infertility issues due to the disease, this could be life-changing!

According to the CDC, infertility affects approximately 11% of women. That’s over 1 in 10 women that will experience some degree of infertility! There are many causes, and while some women receive a diagnosis (like adenomyosis), others may not. We still have a lot to learn about infertility, but rest assured, researchers are working hard to figure it out.

Read about it here:

http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/researchers-close-in-on-cause-of-gynecological-disease/

http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/

Botox- for cancer patients?

eautician giving an injectionBotox- for cancer patients? What?? Yes, you read that right. Botox is commonly known for use in plastic surgery applications. But it may soon have clinical applications for patients suffering from chronic pain!

Botox’s main component is a bacterial poison called botulinum. It works by blocking signaling between muscles and nerve cells, which is useful for cosmetic injections because it stops muscles from moving and wrinkles from developing. Botox can also have pain-relieving qualities, but there is some concern that if Botox is used for pain relief, patients might suffer from paralysis in the area in question.

But now, researchers have combined the pain-relieving elements of Botox with elements of the tetanus bug in such a way that it can stop pain signals sent between the spinal cord and the brain- basically taking the best parts of the two molecules and using them for good. This makes this new drug a potentially useful pain medication for cancer patients as well as others suffering from chronic pain.

As animal trials have been successful, it looks like this new drug could be available in as soon as 3 years! Check out the link below to learn more.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2479300/Botox-jab-ease-arthritis-cancer-effects.html