A new drug to manage resistant chronic pain

April 30, 2012

Neuropathic pain, caused by nerve or tissue damage, is the culprit behind many cases of chronic pain. It can be the result of an accident or caused by a variety of medical conditions and diseases such as tumors, lupus, and diabetes. Typically resistant to common types of pain management including ibuprofen and even morphine, neuropathic pain can lead to lifelong disability for many sufferers.

Now a drug developed by Tel Aviv University researchers, known as BL-7050, is offering new hope to patients with neuropathic pain. Developed by Prof. Bernard Attali and Dr. Asher Peretz of TAU's Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, the medication inhibits the transmission of pain signals throughout the body. In both in-vitro and in-vivo experiments measuring electrical activity of neurons, the compound has been shown to prevent the hyper-excitability of neurons — protecting not only against neuropathic pain, but epileptic seizures as well.

The medication has been licensed by Ramot, TAU's technology transfer company, for development and commercialization by BioLineRx, an Israeli biopharmaceutical development company.

Targeting potassium for pain control

According to Prof. Attali, the medication works by targeting a group of proteins which act as a channel for potassium. Potassium has a crucial role in the excitability of cells, specifically those in the nervous system and the heart. When potassium channels don't function properly, cells are prone to hyper-excitability, leading to neurological and cardiovascular disorders such as epilepsy and arrhythmias. These are also the channels that convey caused by nerve or , known as neuropathic pain.

With few treatment options available for neuropathic pain, Prof. Attali set out to develop a medication that could bind to and stabilize the body's potassium channels, controlling their hyper-excitability and preventing the occurrence of pain by keeping the channels open for the outflow of potassium. This novel targeting approach has been recently reported in the journal PNAS.

Inducing calm in the neurons

Understanding the mechanism that controls these channels has been crucial to the development of the drug. By successfully controlling the excitability of the neurons, Prof. Attali believes that BL-7050 could bring relief to hundreds of millions of patients around the world who suffer from neuropathic pain. The medication will reach the first phase of clinical trials in the near future.

In pre-clinical trials, BL-7050 was tested in rats experiencing both epilepsy and neuropathic pain and was found to be efficient in protecting against both when taken as a pill. While on the medication, rats were no longer affected by stimuli that had previously caused pain. Measures in the electrical activities of neurons also revealed that the medication was able to induce "calm" in the neurons, inhibiting pain pathways.

Explore further: New insight into pain mechanisms

Related Stories

New insight into pain mechanisms

April 25, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers in the UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research have made a discovery which could help the development of analgesic drugs able to treat nerve damage-related pain.

Chronic pain gene identified

September 8, 2011
British researchers say they have identified the gene that controls chronic pain, opening the door to new drug therapies that block the chemical processes that cause chronic back pain, headaches or arthritis.

Recommended for you

Investigating patterns of degeneration in Alzheimer's disease

November 17, 2017
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is known to cause memory loss and cognitive decline, but other functions of the brain can remain intact. The reasons cells in some brain regions degenerate while others are protected is largely unknown. ...

Brain activity buffers against worsening anxiety

November 17, 2017
Boosting activity in brain areas related to thinking and problem-solving may also buffer against worsening anxiety, suggests a new study by Duke University researchers.

Study may point to new treatment approach for ASD

November 17, 2017
Using sophisticated genome mining and gene manipulation techniques, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have solved a mystery that could lead to a new treatment approach for autism spectrum disorder ...

Neuroscience research provides evidence the brain is strobing, not constant

November 17, 2017
It's not just our eyes that play tricks on us, but our ears. That's the finding of a landmark Australian-Italian collaboration that provides new evidence that oscillations, or 'strobes', are a general feature of human perception.

Neuroscientists find chronic stress skews decisions toward higher-risk options

November 16, 2017
Making decisions is not always easy, especially when choosing between two options that have both positive and negative elements, such as deciding between a job with a high salary but long hours, and a lower-paying job that ...

Paraplegic rats walk and regain feeling after stem cell treatment

November 16, 2017
Engineered tissue containing human stem cells has allowed paraplegic rats to walk independently and regain sensory perception. The implanted rats also show some degree of healing in their spinal cords. The research, published ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.