Currently, people suffering from severe neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage, surgical amputation, chemotherapy etc., have no proper therapy to offer a long term relief. This breakthrough research study performed by Duke University researchers could provide advanced cell based studies to treat lower back pain, spinal cord injuries and other chronic pain disorders. Their research study was successful and the findings got published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Bone Marrow Stromal Cells (BMSCs)
The bone marrow of adults has two types of stem cells: haematopoietic stem cells responsible for forming blood cells and stromal stem cells responsible for the formation of connective tissues. The bone marrow stromal cell is a type of stem cell, known to produce an array of healing factors. BMSCs can be easily coaxed to form most type of body cells. Previously, BMSCs are used in various small scale clinical studies to check their effects on inflammatory bowel disease, stroke and heart damage. They were also proved to be effective on pain relief management.
Based on the previous studies, researchers from Duke University used bone marrow stromal cells to treat severe pain caused by nerve damage in mice. They infused the cells into the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the spinal cord through a lumbar puncture. BMSC treated mice were less sensitive to the neuropathic pain stimuli when compared to untreated mice and the effect lasted up to 5 weeks.
How does the therapy works?
Previous studies showed that BMSCs can effectively control pain but the mechanism was unknown. Researchers at Duke University were able to decode the BMSCs by measuring the levels of anti-inflammatory molecules associated with pain. Among the anti-inflammatory molecules, TGF-β1 in particular was present in higher quantity in the cerebrospinal fluid of BMSC treated mice. TGF-β1 is a protein secreted by the immune cells and usually found to be in lower concentration in patients with chronic pain. According to this study, TGF-β1 influenced the pain killing benefits of BMSC i.e., due to the actions of TGF-β1, the bone marrow stromal cells were able to relieve pain in the mice.
Although TGF-β1 can relieve pain, they are short lived but BMSCs stay in the spinal cord for a longer duration to provide pain relief for about 5 weeks. BMSCs can effectively migrate to the site of injury due to the effect of CXCL 12 molecule emitted by the injured nerve cell. The researchers believe that they could improve the cells to maximize their beneficial effects.