Pain – it is one aspect of life that some of us would prefer not to live with, and yet it is essential in helping us know that something is wrong with our bodies when we feel a certain amount of pain somewhere. I guess some pain is all right, but how about the excruciating one that would actually make folks pass out? A team from Stanford University has come up with a new technique which enables them to modulate the amount of pain. This particular technique would rely on optogenetics, which is a method that will introduce genes which code for light sensitive proteins into animals.
In order to achieve this, the team has to inject a virus that holds the DNA of an opsin, which is a protein that can be in light-sensitive cells of the retina, right into the nerves on the paws of lab mice. It took a few weeks before the intended effect kicked in, where only nerves that were involved in pain had the opsin genes present in their DNA. Since the mice lived in a cage that had a transparent Plexiglas bottom, the researchers managed to shine light directly on their paws, which regulated the amount (much or little) of pain that the mice felt. I guess if this were to translate to human use (if at all safe and possible in the future), then it would help medical personnel work on pain management in a more effective manner.