Columbia University Medical Center researchers have given many chronic pain patients hope with a patent on a potential new pain drug that focuses on the “on/off” switch to pain that the researchers found 4-years ago in their studies. The new drug, which they have named “N60”, has proven to be powerful against pain in animal trials while avoiding tolerance, addiction and sedation problems. The researchers are just now planning on beginning the human trials, so unfortunately, everything is just in the beginning phases at this point. Approval and when it will be available is still unknown and will probably not likely be soon.
This is how the researchers describe pain in the ProHealth article:
Pain is a perception in the brain triggered by signals sent along nerves in the peripheral nervous system. It is a sensation that serves as a defense mechanism for the organism, but how it works is only beginning to be understood. Scientists now know, though, that there are several pathways by which the brain perceives different types of pain.
The chronic pain team, led by Dr. Richard Ambron, Professor of Pathology & Cell Biology, began to develop N60 after his colleague, Dr. Ying-Ju Sung, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pathology, discovered the pathway that neurons use to inform the brain of an injury.
Left uncontrolled, this pathway persistently alters the electrical properties of the neuron, ultimately causing chronic pain.
The researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found out that there is a protein in the pathway called “PKG” that acts like an “on/off” switch. As long as the switch is on, the pathway is activated and the brain continues to receive signals that are perceived as pain, even after an injury has healed.
Sung and Ambron quickly realized that PKG would be an excellent target for drug development.
• Since PKG is specific for the biochemical signaling involved with chronic pain, shutting off PKG will not prevent a patient from feeling fresh injuries.
• It also operates in the peripheral nervous system, rather than the central nervous system (brain & spinal cord). This means that a drug that blocks PKG does not have to cross the blood-brain barrier, a formidable challenge in drug development.
“The only drugs that work consistently on chronic pain are opiates and anti-depressants,” said Ambron. “A significant problem with opiates is that extended use often leads to addiction.”
“Everyone is looking for a solution that is not addictive,” Sung added. “There’s increasing concern, from clinicians, patients, and regulatory agencies, with drugs that act on the central nervous system – where addiction can develop.”
“We believe a compound like N60 has significant potential to transform the way chronic pain is treated,” Ambron said.
“If it works the way we think it can, we may be able to alleviate chronic pain in some of its most intractable forms without the risk of addiction, a problem that conveys a whole set of economic and social issues for our country and society at-large.”