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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Block That Pain!

New NIH Research Points to Childbirth and Surgical Pain Relief

For those who suffer from any form of unrelieved chronic pain, new research from NIH-supported investigators holds promise. That is especially so for pain from childbirth and surgical procedures.

The NIH animal study used a combination of capsaicin—the substance that makes chili peppers hot—and a drug called QX-314. This combination produces a unique effect, blocking pain-sensing neurons without impairing signals from other cells. In contrast, most pain relievers used for surgical procedures block activity in all types of neurons. This can cause numbness, paralysis, and other nervous system disturbances.

"The Holy Grail in pain science is to eliminate pain without impairing thinking, alertness, coordination, or other vital functions of the nervous system," says Story C. Landis, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the NIH. NINDS funds the investigators' research, along with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

This finding shows that a specific combination of two molecules can block only pain-related neurons. It holds the promise of major future breakthroughs for the millions of persons who suffer with disabling pain.

Fall 2007 Issue: Volume 2 Number 4 Page 22