Experimental gene therapy for spinal cord pain shows promising results in mice, researchers say.
About half of patients with spinal cord injuries suffer from neuropathy - chronic or debilitating pain, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness caused by nerve damage or malfunction.
Treatment for neuropathy can be difficult. Medications often require complex, continuous administration and can cause side effects such as sedation and motor weakness. Prescription opioid pain relievers can be effective but can also lead to increased tolerance and risk of abuse, the researchers explain.
The gene therapy tested in this study involves the injection of a harmless virus carrying a pair of transgenes, GAD65 and VGAT, which encode for gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that blocks pain signals between nerve cells.
The therapy was tested in mice with sciatic nerve lesions that caused severe neuropathic pain and resulted in a marked downregulation of pain signaling neurons. The effect persisted for at least 2.5 months after treatment, writes UPI.
Because the therapy was targeted at a specific site of sciatic nerve injury in the mice, there were no side effects detected, the study authors note.