Relief for Chronic Pain
The main symptom associated with fibromyalgia is chronic pain throughout the body that tends not to be relieved by typical opiate pain medications. Now, scientists at the Department of Medicine and Department of Neurosciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found a way to treat chronic pain by means of targeted gene therapy. The Mount Sinai researchers, in their effort to discover a better and more effective treatment for chronic pain, worked to develop a technique that manipulates genes to mimic the pain-relieving effects of opioids. In their report on the findings of this study, the researchers suggest that such gene therapy may be the wave of the future for patients with chronic and debilitating pain that is resistant to other therapies, thus giving them greater quality of life and the ability to sustain gainful employment.
The lead investigator of the study, Dr. Andreas Beutler, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine/ Hematology and Medical Oncology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine comments that some 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Most of them are not receiving satisfactory pain relief from the treatments available at present either because of the inefficiency of such drugs at alleviating their pain or because of the difficult side effects associated with such drugs like mental fogginess, hallucinations, and extreme fatigue.
A Single Injection
The Mount Sinai team came up with a viral vector that can carry the prepro-b-endorphin gene directly into the sensory neurons so that they might activate selected opiate receptors in rat models. The delivery system used to deliver the agents was a single injection via lumbar puncture or spinal tap. The rats were shown to remain free of symptoms for a lengthy period of time with a single injection providing more than 3 months of relief. The effectiveness of this therapy is due to the selective targeting of what Beutler terms the "pain gate."
States Dr. Beutler, "Targeted gene therapy will likely avoid the unwanted side effects associated with opioid painkillers such as morphine. Based on our findings, this targeted gene therapy via lumbar puncture appears to be a promising candidate for bench-to-bedside research that might ultimately be tested in patients with intractable chronic pain, e.g., to help patients suffering from severe pain due to advanced cancer."
Meantime, fibromyalgia patients can look forward to the future for the development of more effective and long-term treatment for their chronic pain.