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Chronic pain treatments may get boost from high-tech imaging

Brain scans can track protein changes to show whether therapies work

8:17pm, February 13, 2015
chronic pain protein builds up

SEEING PAIN  People with chronic pain (left) have higher levels of a protein linked with inflammation (orange and red) in their brains than people without chronic pain (right), a finding that could help improve treatments for the condition.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — High-tech brain imaging could improve treatments for chronic pain, new research suggests.

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden and Harvard University have found that PET and MRI images can pinpoint cellular and molecular changes in the body and brain that accompany chronic pain. The scientists used chemical tracers that concentrate in the regions where chronic pain affects body and brain tissue. Measuring changes in the concentration of the tracers during a patient’s treatment can show how well a therapy works, Harvard neuroscientist Clas Linnman said February 13 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The images are good predictors of whether drugs in clinical trials for chronic pain are going to work,” Linnman said. Providing such information early in drug development could make the process of developing medications for chronic pain more efficient, he said.


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