In a study published in the latest issue of Neuron, researchers transplanted immature embryonic nerve cells from the brain to the spinal cord, aiming to make up for a loss of function of specific neurons in the spinal cord that normally dampen pain signals.
A small fraction of the transplanted cells survived and matured into functioning neurons in the spinal cord. As a result, pain hypersensitivity associated with nerve injury was almost completely eliminated, and patients did not experience the side effects, including movement disturbances, that are typical of drug treatments.
"Now we are working toward the possibility of potential treatments that might eliminate the source of neuropathic pain, and that may be much more effective than drugs that aim only to treat symptomatically the pain that results from chronic, painful conditions," said study senior author Allan Basbaum, PhD, chair of the department of anatomy at UCSF.
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