Researchers Find the Off Switch for Pain

For millions of people in this country and beyond, the concept of a ‘switch’ that could simply turn off pain sounds far too good to be true.

However, chronic pain patients might be interested to learn that a team of researchers from LMU Munich, Berkley, and Bordeaux have discovered a possible form of pain relief that acts much like a light switch.

The ability to turn off pain-sensitive neurons in this way was first conceived by Dirk Trauner, professor of Chemical Biology and Genetics. He, with the help of a well-staffed team developed a molecule referred to as QAQ, which is made up of two distinct parts – ammonium and double bonded nitrogen. The molecule is similar to the active analogs of lidocane, a well-known and regularly used local anesthetic.

In order for QAQ to bond with the neuroreceptors (the source of the pain signals), it must be in an extended formation.

The scientists discovered that under a certain light, it was possible to force the nitrogen and ammonium compound to leave its bent form and straighten, thereby permitting the essential bond. Switching from a 380-nm light, which kept the compound bent, to a 500-nm light, they were able to create the extension and interrupt the pain signals.

Thus, with the flip of a light switch they were able to turn off pain.

There are some downsides to the research at this point in time. While it has demonstrated something miraculous, the type of light required for activation cannot permeate human skin.

However, the researchers have hope that they will discover a different compound that reacts in the same way to red light, which has a longer wavelength and will be able to reach beyond the skin to the pain sensors beneath.

For more information, continue reading at Science Daily.

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