A Northwestern University team of researchers has developed a new implant that relieves pain without the use of drugs. The biocompatible device is water-soluble and works by softly wrapping around nerves to deliver precise, targeted cooling, which numbs nerves and blocks pain signals to the brain.
It has an external pump that enables the user to activate the device and then increase or decrease its intensity. When it is no longer needed, it naturally absorbs into the body, without the need for surgical extraction.
The researchers believe this could be really useful for patients who undergo routine surgeries or even amputations. It could be implanted during the surgery and help manage postoperative pain without the need for painkillers.
The device contains a liquid coolant that is induced to evaporate at the specific location of a sensory nerve, and by delivering a cooling effect to just one or two targeted nerves it can effectively modulate pain signals in one specific region of the body.
It is also only 5 millimeters wide, one end is curled into a cuff that softly wraps around a single nerve, bypassing the need for sutures.
Multiweek in vivo trials demonstrate the ability to rapidly and precisely cool peripheral nerves to provide local, on-demand analgesia in rat models for neuropathic pain.
These types of devices could help decrease the use of opioid medications, which although helpful for post-operative pain, are extremely addictive.
Northwestern University. “Dissolving implantable device relieves pain without drugs: New device has the potential to provide an alternative to opioids and other highly addictive drugs.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2022. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/06/220630142129.htm>.