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Potential pain treatment’s mechanism deciphered

Cells from bone marrow give long-term relief to mice with nerve damage

By
4:00pm, July 13, 2015
Therapeutic cells (pink)

TARGETED TREATMENT  Therapeutic cells (pink) extracted from bone marrow can deliver pain-relieving proteins to nerve cells in the spine (blue). The therapeutic cells congregate around injured areas, following chemical signals to damaged cells. 

Scientists think they have a new understanding of a potential long-lasting, targeted treatment for chronic pain.

When injected into the spinal cord of a mouse with nerve damage, cells extracted from mouse bone marrow flock to injured cells and produce a pain-relieving protein, researchers report July 13 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The results may lead to better chronic pain treatments in humans.   

The specialized cells homed in on their ultimate destination by following chemical signals released by the injured nerve cells. There, the injected cells produced an anti-inflammatory protein, called transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFB1), which provided long-term pain relief. Researchers had known that the marrow cells relieved pain, but didn’t know how, says study coauthor Ru-Rong Ji, a neurobiologist at Duke University Medical Center.

“These cells make drugs at sites

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