Chronic Pain and Magnetic Bioengineered Gels
UCLA researchers have shown the applicability, when managing chronic pain, of magnetic bioengineered gels. Most current therapeutic agents are acting at a molecular level; they alter the irregular proteins level. A relatively new concept, however, is the usage of physical forces actually pulling and pushing on cells. UCLA researchers have demonstrated the actual possibility of this. It can alter the cell membranes' biophysical characteristics, permitting the pain receptors found there to open, bringing about rapid changes within an influx of channels of ion.
Chronic Pain Leads to More Pain-sensitive Channels
In a patient with chronic pain, particular pain-sensitive channels are increased in the nerve cells known as dorsal root ganglion neurons. Because of this, an influx is allowed of calcium ions. These are responsible for the transmission of pain signals that move across the nervous system. UCLA researchers used hyaluronic acid-based gels and trapped small magnetic particles within this matrix. Because hyaluronic acid can be found in abundance in nerve tissues like the spinal cord and brain, matrix made from this substance is quite biocompatible with the bodies of humans.
Application of Magnetic Forces to Nerve Cells
Scientists followed up by growing DRG neurons inside the matrix, applying magnetic forces about the gels. As magnetic stimulus was applied, the small magnetic particles that were trapped in the gels responded to the stimulation. Tiny mechanical forces were generated to tug on neurons within the matrix. Because of this, the calcium influx was changed. Modulating this flux gave the researchers an incredible tool for managing chronic pain.
Magnetic Method Advantages
Several advantages can be found in using this method. These gels can easily be injected into deeper layers of tissues. This is because hyaluronic-acid-based gels have biophysical characteristics in common with neural tissues including the spinal cord and brain. Other foreign materials would be rejected because they were incompatible with human tissue. These gels can also be made in large quantities easily.
The researchers further suggested that this technique could be utilized for other cell types. Cardiac cells expressing ion channels that are responsive to such mechanical stimuli might be amenable to this method's modulation. The researchers do note the need to optimize the force's strength that is applied to cells precisely.