Chronic pain is an invisible disability. Victims of chronic pain struggle daily to help their family, friends, co-workers, and strangers understand their disability.
Pain is a feeling set off in the nervous system. Acute pain lets you know that you may be injured or have a problem you need to take care of. Chronic pain is different. The pain signals go on for weeks, months, or even years. Chronic pain usually cannot be cured. But treatments can help, they have included medicines, acupuncture, electrical stimulation and surgery.
Researchers have developed a way to turn pain on and off using light. In a recent study, researchers have created mice whose sensitivity to pain can be controlled by shining light onto their paws.
As the study describes, researchers achieved this amazing feat by altering the DNA in mice using a technique known as Optogenetics (controlling the brain with light). The method involved injecting mice with an engineered virus containing genes that make light-sensitive proteins, called opsins. When opsins absorb light they change in shape, which triggers the nerve cell to behave differently.
This research opens the door to future experiments that can help understand the nature of pain better. Researchers hope to use these advances to develop an inexpensive light-based treatment for people with debilitating chronic pain.