Magazine article Science News

Potential Pain Reliever Explained: In Mice with Nerve Damage, Bone Marrow Ceils Ease Agony

Magazine article Science News

Potential Pain Reliever Explained: In Mice with Nerve Damage, Bone Marrow Ceils Ease Agony

Article excerpt

Scientists think they have a new understanding of a potential long-lasting, targeted treatment for chronic pain.

When injected into the spinal fluid of a mouse with nerve damage, cells extracted from mouse bone marrow flock to injured cells and produce a pain-relieving protein, researchers report online July 13 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The results may lead to better chronic pain treatments.

The specialized cells homed in on their ultimate destination by following chemical signals released by the injured nerve cells. There, the injected cells produced an anti-inflammatory protein, transforming growth factor beta 1, which provided long-term pain relief for the mice. Scientists had known that the marrow cells relieved pain but didn't know how, says study coauthor Ru-Rong Ji, a neurobiologist at Duke University Medical Center.

"These cells make drugs at sites of injury," says biologist Arnold Caplan of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "They're drugstores."

Ji and colleagues found that they could relieve chronic nerve pain in mice by injecting 250,000 cells or fewer into the narrow space under the spinal cord membrane. This site is protected by the blood-brain barrier, preventing immune attacks on the injected cells and allowing these cells to live longer, Ji says. Some clinical trials inject cells like these into the bloodstream, Caplan says, which requires many more cells, many of which get stuck in the lungs and liver. …

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