Research in the News: Gene therapy shows promise in neuron repair and pain relief

Neuropathic pain associated with diabetes, shingles, and traumatic injury affects up to 18 percent of the population and can be difficult or impossible to effectively treat. Using gene therapy, Yale neurologists have managed to repair neurons associated with traumatic nerve injury pain in rats.

This image shows yellow/orange stained neurons that have been repaired by gene therapy while remaining neurons appear red. The novel technique dramatically reduced pain in animal models and is a potential treatment for hard to treat neuropathic pain associated with diabetes and nerve damage.

“Since the therapy targets only cells in the pain-sensing neurons outside the brain and spinal cord, this method can avoid some of cognitive problems associated with other pain therapies that also work on the central nervous system,” said Omar Samad, research scientist in neurology and lead author of the paper published online Aug. 21 in the journal Molecular Therapy.

The work was conducted in the laboratory of Stephen Waxman, the Bridget M. Flaherty Professor of Neurology and director of the center for neuroscience and regeneration research, and it was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Nancy Taylor Foundation for Chronic Diseases.

Other authors are Andrew Tan, Xiaoyang Chen, Edmund Foster, and Sulayman Dib-Hajj.

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