The pharmaceuticals used to treat pain haven’t changed substantially in many years, and they all come with a range of possible side effects. In the case of strong opioids, the potential for dependence or overdose sometimes outweighs the benefits. A team of researchers from Duke University may have discovered an alternative to the drugs traditionally used to treat pain. They have developed a highly specialized antibody that can dull the pain response by acting directly on neurons.
Professor Seok-Yong Lee was originally seeking to isolate a particular type of sodium channel called Nav1.7 found on neurons in order to study its structure. Sodium channels regulate the flow of sodium through the membrane of a neuron to control the action potential — that is, it controls the firing of electrical signals by the neuron. The Nav1.7 channel subtype is known to be involved in the generation of pain and itch sensations. Lee used antibodies to capture the channel proteins for study, but he got to wondering if it might be possible to create an antibody to inhibit the function of the channel in living organisms.
An antibody is a type of protein produced by the immune system of all vertebrates. They are part of the so-called adaptive response that attaches to pathogens and marks them for removal from the body. When you get vaccinated against a disease, it is the antibodies produced by the immune system in response that give you the protection. Researchers have long known they can generate antibodies in the lab that target a certain molecule or structure (called an antigen), and that’s what the Duke researchers did in this case.
For the rest of the story: http://www.geek.com/science/scientists-create-antibody-that-blocks-pain-and-itchiness-1594767/