Research News Tip Sheet: Story Ideas from Johns Hopkins Medicine

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Johns Hopkins Medicine Media Relations is focused on disseminating current, accurate and useful information to the public via the media. As part of that effort, we are distributing our “COVID-19 Tip Sheet: Story Ideas from Johns Hopkins” every other Wednesday.

With gene therapy, scientists develop opioid-free solution for chronic pain

A gene therapy for chronic pain could offer a safer, non-addictive alternative to opioids. Researchers at the University of California San Diego developed the new therapy, which works by temporarily repressing a gene involved in sensing pain. It increased pain tolerance in mice, lowered their sensitivity to pain and provided months of pain relief without causing numbness.

Digital solutions including remote monitoring can help chronic pain sufferers manage their pain and reduce the probability of misuse of prescription opioids.

For the first time, an app has been shown to reduce key symptoms of chronic pain. A UNH-led study evaluated the impact of Manage My Pain(MMP), a digital health solution on chronic pain patients.

Immersive virtual reality boosts the effectiveness of spinal cord stimulation for chronic pain

For patients receiving spinal cord stimulation (SCS) for chronic pain, integration with an immersive virtual reality (VR) system – allowing patients to see as well as feel the effects of electrical stimulation on a virtual image of their own body – can enhance the pain-relieving effectiveness of SCS, reports a study in PAIN®, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Neuromonitoring Enables Patients to Sleep through Spinal Cord Stimulator Placement

Neuromonitoring has been used in the fields of neurological and orthopedic surgery for years but has just recently made its debut in SCS implantation. There are limited studies observing neuromonitoring in this application, so doctors have shared the case study of a patient who successfully underwent the procedure and reported 90% pain reduction one week later.

Reducing Drinking Among US Veterans with Unhealthy Alcohol Use Might Improve Chronic Pain Symptoms and Reduce Other Substance Use

US veterans with unhealthy alcohol use who reduce their drinking may gain some improvement in chronic pain symptoms and use of other substances, according to a study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Hazardous drinking is common in the US, and frequently co-occurs with chronic pain, depression and anxiety, and with tobacco, cannabis or cocaine use. Many people use alcohol and other substances to mask or self-manage pain and psychiatric symptoms, although there is little evidence to support such use. If, conversely, a reduction in drinking (or use of treatment for alcohol misuse) were to benefit co-occurring conditions or substance use, this could support an integrated approach to screening or treatment. The new analysis assessed the impact of drinking reduction on improvement of chronic pain, psychiatric symptoms, and other substance use among US veterans with unhealthy alcohol use – a population with high rates of these co-occurring conditions.

NYU College of Dentistry Awarded NIH Grant to Investigate Endosomal Receptors as Targets for Chronic Pain Treatment

The NIH has awarded NYU College of Dentistry researchers Nigel Bunnett, PhD, and Brian Schmidt, DDS, MD, PhD, a $3.9 million grant to study targeting endosomal receptors for the treatment of chronic pain. The five-year grant will support Bunnett and Schmidt’s collaborative research, which aims to ultimately yield improved pain management without the need for opioids.

New Recommendations Steer Doctors Away from Opioids to Treat Pain in Adolescent Athletes

Athletes commonly experience pain in practice and competition. Inadequate or inappropriate pain management in adolescent athletes can lead to a lifetime of consequences including increased risk of opioid misuse. A team physician consensus statement just released by ACSM and 5 other sports medicine organizations shares guidelines to identify and manage pain in athletes ages 10 to 18.

Weizmann Institute Scientists Find that Targeting a Chronic Pain Gateway Could Bring Relief

A study led by Prof. Mike Fainzilber identifies a potential new approach to treating chronic pain: targeting an importin molecule that moves pain messages into nerve cell nuclei. The team can now “conduct screens for new and better drug molecules that can precisely target this chain of events in the sensory neurons.”

Medical Cannabis put to the test in first ever real-world evidence clinical trial led by UHN

Medical cannabis is finally being put under the microscope, in a first-of-its-kind real world evidence study led by Dr. Hance Clarke, Toronto General Hospital. In the Medical Cannabis Real-World Evidence trial patients using the online portal created by Medical Cannabis by Shoppers, will know exactly what is in their product and its effectiveness.

A sound treatment

University of Utah biomedical engineering assistant professor Jan Kubanek has discovered that sound waves of high frequency (ultrasound) can be emitted into a patient’s brain to alter his or her state. It’s a non-invasive treatment that doesn’t involve medications or surgery and has a unique potential to treat mental disorders including depression and anxiety and neurological disorders such as chronic pain and epilepsy.

ASRA Recognizes Eight Trailblazers as Part of the Year of Women in ASRA

Eight trailblazing women in regional anesthesia and pain medicine are being honored for their achievements and contributions to the field as part of the ASRA Trailblazer Awards. Created to acknowledge potential for bias in the past, the program is part of the “Year of Women in ASRA,” so named by ASRA President Dr. Eugene Viscusi. Other components of the campaign include year-round highlights of prominent women in the field on the ASRA website and social media channels, greater recognition of gender disparities at meetings, improved data collection to continue to assess our progress representing the field, and, most importantly, development of an organizational plan to identify and correct disparities across all minority groups.

‘Brain Surfing’: Ultrasound waves focused on prefrontal cortex elevate mood and change brain connectivity in human volunteers

A team of researchers at the University of Arizona has found that low-intensity ultrasound waves directed at a particular region of the brain’s prefrontal cortex in healthy subjects can elevate mood, and decrease connectivity in a brain network that has been shown to be hyperactive in psychiatric disorders. The method uses transcranial focused ultrasound (‘tFUS’), a painless, non-invasive technique to modulate brain function comparable to transcranial magnetic stimulation (‘TMS’), and transcranial direct current stimulation (‘tDCS’). This study shows, for the first time, a correlation between tFUS-induced mood enhancement, and reorganization of brain circuits.

Recognize an overdose, save a life

Every day nearly 200 people die from an overdose of drugs or from alcohol poisoning, with opioids responsible for the majority. Recognizing the signs and knowing how to respond to medical emergencies, including carrying and administering naloxone in cases of opioid overdose, can save lives says the ASA.

Epidemic levels of chronic pain, opioid use disorder add to challenges of managing patients in pain

A series of seven articles in AACN Advanced Critical Care focuses on the challenges of safe, effective pain management in the ICU, including more Americans reporting daily chronic pain and the rapidly increasing prevalence of opioid misuse and opioid use disorder.

American Chiropractic Association Launches Website to Enhance Public Understanding of Chiropractic

Hands Down Better, a website launched by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), is a new resource for those who seek alternatives to pain medications and surgery for common musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, neck pain, joint pain and headaches.

Tulane team researching ways to end opioid addiction

A Tulane University researcher is part of a nationwide initiative to improve treatment of chronic pain and ultimately achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction.

Michael J. Moore, professor of biomedical engineering in the Tulane School of Science and Engineering, is part of a $945 million National Institutes of Health project called the HEAL Initiative, or Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative.

Other treatments can reduce need for addictive pain medication

Hardly a day goes by without the public being warned about the dangers of opioids. But still, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die every day of opioid overdose and the problem is getting worse. A Houston Methodist pain specialist says new advancements in pain management are giving patients options.