Stem Cell Injection Provides Pain Relief for Weeks

Chronic pain is just one of many conditions that may be treated with an innovative stem cell-based therapy, according to researchers at Duke University.

Chronic pain is just one of many conditions that may be treated with an innovative stem cell-based therapy, according to researchers at Duke University.

Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) are a type of stem cells that can provide healing effects and form into various other types of cells. With this understanding, Ru-Rong Ji, PhD, and colleagues examined how the stem cells could be used to alleviate neuropathic pain and other conditions. While previous research looked at BMSCs for pain relief, long-term effects were not examined.

The team studied mice with pain from nerve damage. They injected the BMSCs via lumbar puncture to the fluid surrounding the spinal cord.

“Based on these new results, we have the know-how and we can further engineer and improve the cells to maximize their beneficial effects,”Ji, a professor of anesthesiology and neurobiology in the Duke School of Medicine, said in a news release.

Patients with chronic pain have too little of the protein TGF-β1. According to the report posted in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, while evaluating the ways in which stem cells create analgesic effects the researchers found that higher concentrations of TGF-β1 were found in those treated with the injection. Chemically neutralizing the protein inhibited the pain relief of BMSCs. This suggests that TGF-β1 plays an important role in the soothing effects of stem cells.

The mice that were treated with BMSCs “were much less sensitive to painful stimuli,” the statement said. In addition, the stem cells connected with the nerve cells in the spinal cord.

“This analgesic effect was amazing. Normally, if you give an analgesic, you see pain relief for a few hours, at most a few days,” Ji explained.

With just one injection the team witnessed pain relief lasting for 4 to 5 weeks, although traces of BMSCs were found on site up to 3 months after the injection. Infusing just TGF-β1 into the spinal cord fluid was able to provide relief for a few hours.

Now that it has been determined that the protein is an intricate part of BMSCs analgesics, the team plans to find how to produce more of it. Pain caused by neuropathy, type 2 diabetes, chemotherapy, and other conditions may benefit from these findings.