Development of an implantable device that dissolves in the body after completing its task, capable of relieving pain without drugs.

Scientists led by Northwestern University have developed a small, soft and flexible implant that relieves pain on demand and without the use of drugs.

In their statement, the scientists noted that the new device could be an alternative to opioids and other addictive drugs.

A study published in the journal Science says the water-soluble device works by gently wrapping nerves to provide precise, targeted cooling that numbs nerves and blocks pain signals to the brain.

This is similar to the mechanism used when people’s fingers go numb from the cold. The device can be remotely activated by the user using an external pump capable of increasing or decreasing its intensity.

Once the task is completed, the device automatically dissolves naturally in the body and does not need to be removed surgically, according to the study.

Scientists say this soft, flexible sheet-thick nerve cooler is ideal for treating hypersensitive nerves.

John Rogers of Northwestern University in America, who led the development of the device, explains: “Although opioids are very effective, they are also addictive. As engineers, we are guided by the idea of ​​treating pain without drugs, in ways that can be turned on and off immediately, under the control of the user. The technology described here uses mechanisms that bear some resemblance to those that cause numbness of the fingers in the cold.”

He continued: “The implant allows this effect to be produced in a programmable way by acting directly and locally on nerves, even nerves located deep in the surrounding soft tissues.”

The researchers believe the device could be more valuable for patients who have undergone conventional surgeries or even amputations, who often require postoperative pain medication.

Surgeons may implant the device during surgery to help relieve patient pain after surgery.

“An implantable cooling device with on-demand local analgesia will be a game-changer for long-term pain relief,” Shang Jiang and Gosen Hong wrote in a related research paper.

The device uses a simple concept known to all: evaporation. Just as the evaporation of sweat cools the body, it contains a refrigerant that evaporates at a specific location on a sensory nerve.

“When a nerve cools, the signals passing through it slow down and eventually stop completely,” said study co-author Matthew McEwan of the University of Washington. “We specifically targeted the peripheral nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the brain.” the rest of the body. These are the nerves that transmit sensory stimuli, including pain. By applying a cooling effect to only one or two selected nerves, we can effectively modulate pain signals in a specific area of ​​the body.”

To induce a cooling effect, the device contains microfluidic channels. One channel contains a liquid refrigerant (perfluoropentane) that is clinically approved as an ultrasound contrast agent and for pressurized inhalers. The second channel contains dry nitrogen, which is an inert gas. When liquid and gas enter the common chamber, a reaction occurs that causes rapid evaporation of the liquid. Meanwhile, a small built-in sensor monitors the nerve’s temperature to make sure it’s not too cold, which could cause tissue damage.

The scientists believe the device could be more valuable for patients who have undergone conventional surgeries or even amputations, which typically require postoperative medication. Surgeons may implant the device during surgery to relieve patient pain after surgery, to help control patient pain after this medical procedure.

Thus, the implant, the first of its kind, could be an alternative to opioids and other addictive drugs.

Source: Independent