August 24, 2022 – Cooling a recent injury with ice can be one of the most effective ways to relieve pain without medication. But the ice is huge, imprecise, and melts. But what if you could shrink an ice pack that never melts and place it directly on the nerves causing the pain? That’s what a group of Northwestern University scientists have set out to do by developing a small, flexible implant that provides on-demand pain relief.
The researchers tested the device on mice and publish their results in the magazine Sciences. They hope to provide the future An alternative to opioids and other prescription painkillers that can have serious side effects, including a risk of addiction.
The implant is a thin strip 5 mm wide WaterA soluble substance containing a pair of parallel, wave-shaped channels, one filled with liquid coolant and the other with dry nitrogen. There is a pump on the outside that releases liquid and gas that travels to the common sinus where the chemical reaction causes the liquid to evaporate, eventually causing a cold sensation that numbs the nerve. As the nerve gets colder, the pain signals it sends to the brain gradually slow down until they stop completely, preventing those signals from reaching the brain.
Because the thin tape is designed to be wrapped around the actual nerve causing the pain, the device provides precise, targeted relief that doesn’t affect surrounding tissues, including the nerves that control motor function. This means that you benefit from the numbness you feel when you apply the ice, but with greater precision in targeting a single nerve versus the area that the ice pack might completely cover.
“We are specifically targeting the peripheral nerves that connect to your brain and your spinal cord to the rest of your body. These are the nerves that transmit sensory stimuli, including pain,” said co-author Matthew McEwanMD, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, explained in Article – Commodity in Northwestern. “By providing a cooling effect to only one or two target nerves, we can effectively modulate pain signals in a specific area of the body.”
Since too much cooling can damage tissue around the nerve, the device includes a small sensor that monitors the temperature of the nerve and can adjust the flow rates of liquid and gas to increase or decrease the amount. The device also doesn’t need to be removed once it’s implanted: All of the material can be absorbed naturally into the body, and dissolve within a few days or weeks of being placed, the researchers said.