Miniaturized, implantable nerve coolers for targeted pain relief


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Summary: Researchers have developed a new implantable device that can “cool” nerves and provide pain relief when needed for people with neuropathic or chronic pain.

Source: AAAS

Researchers report that an implantable device that “cools” nerves may provide targeted, on-demand pain relief. When tested on rats with neuropathic pain, the device produced highly localized cooling.

“An implantable cooling device with on-demand local analgesia will fundamentally change long-term pain management,” write Shan Jiang and Guosong Hong in a related perspective. It offers a promising avenue to create a class of analgesics for long-term non-opioid pain management.

Pain management is a pressing health concern for many people, who often have to resort to effective but highly addictive and sometimes fatal opioid pain relievers. This has made the development of localized, non-opioid and non-addictive alternatives very attractive.

One such approach is pain-relieving nerve cooling, which shows promise as an effective and reversible method of relieving pain, for example after amputations, nerve transplants or spinal decompression surgeries. Like putting ice on a sore joint or muscle, applying cold directly to nerves can block the transmission of pain signals and provide temporary relief.

However, conventional nerve cooling devices are bulky and rigid with non-specific cooling and high power requirements – characteristics that prevent practical clinical use.

To counteract this, Jonathan Reeder and colleagues developed a soft, miniaturized and implantable nerve cooling system based on state-of-the-art microfluidic and flexible electronic technologies.

Loan of electric nerve cuffs, shipowners et al. Use a liquid-to-gas phase transition in microfluidic channels in an elastic band that wraps around peripheral nerves to provide targeted cooling. An integrated thermal thin-film sensor in the device provides real-time temperature monitoring and control.

Based on electrical nerve cuffs, Reeder et al. Use a liquid-to-gas phase transition in microfluidic channels in an elastic band that wraps around peripheral nerves to provide targeted cooling. The image is in the public domain

Because the device is made of water-soluble and biocompatible materials, it is bioresorbable (meaning it will degrade), reducing the necessary surgical risk.

To demonstrate the capabilities of the device, the authors performed in vivo Experiments in rat models of neuropathic pain, with rapid and precise cooling of peripheral nerves to provide local and on-demand pain relief.

“In addition to the proven strengths of the miniaturized flexible cooling device for pain relief,” write Jiang and Hong in the related perspective, “the technology offers further opportunities for neuroscientific research and neurological practice.”

About this neurotech and pain research news

Author: press office
Source: AAAS
Contact: Press Office – AAAS
Picture: The image is in the public domain

See also

This shows a brain over a hand

Original research: Closed access.
“Soft, Bioresorbable Coolers for Reversible Peripheral Nerve Conduction Block” by Jonathan T. Reeder et al. Science


Soft, bioresorbable coolers for reversible conduction blockage of peripheral nerves

Implantable devices capable of selectively and reversibly blocking peripheral nerve activity could provide alternatives to opioids for the treatment of pain. Local cooling represents an attractive means of on-demand elimination of pain signals, but traditional technologies are limited by rigid, bulky form factors; inaccurate cooling; and requirements for extraction operations.

Here we present soft, bioresorbable, microfluidic devices that enable the delivery of focused, minimally invasive cooling power at arbitrary depths in living tissue with real-time temperature feedback control. Construction of water-soluble, biocompatible materials results in dissolution and bioresorption as the mechanism to eliminate unnecessary device stress and patient risk without additional surgeries.

Multi-week in vivo studies demonstrate the ability to rapidly and precisely cool peripheral nerves to provide local, on-demand analgesia in rat models of neuropathic pain.

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