They hope their findings will lead to an effective pharmacological treatment for the sharp, burning neuropathic pain commonly experienced by patients after spinal cord injuries. Specifically, they’re trying to determine whether reducing sensory ‘sprouting’ – with a specific drug known to stop it – will combat the pain without sacrificing motor function. Current treatments are ineffective, they said.
It could also have implications beyond pain relief.
“Chronic pain is debilitating, and it affects every facet of life,” said Bareiss. “Once these pain conditions arise, they tend to persist or worsen over time. It reduces quality of life and hinders a person’s reintegration into community and vocation.”
“What if, instead of reducing the sprouting, you were to enhance it, fostering new synaptic connections in brain cells? Could that help with Alzheimer’s? The signal may be the same,” said Bareiss.
According to the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pain Medicine, chronic pain affects more than 100 million Americans – more than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.