Botox isn’t just something to get rid of wrinkles. It has several important medical applications – the latest one being valuable and worth studying for the millions of people living with chronic pain.
You see, a modified form of Botox could give long relief to patients with chronic nerve injury pain, according to scientists at UCL, the universities of Sheffield and Reading, and US-based biopharma company Neuresta.
Mind you, this is not your common Botox used in the beauty industry. This is new botulinum neurotoxin, which can alleviate chronic pain without risk of paralysis or addiction.
Truth is, chronic pain is extremely difficult to manage. Currently available drugs are limited by dangerous side effects. Opioids such as morphine and fentanyl are the gold standard for short-term pain relief but they’re too addictive for long-term use.
However, a single injection of the precisely engineered botulinum neurotoxin gave long-lasting relief in mice, without any nasty effects.
The team developed a new way of rebuilding Botox by using elements of its parent bacterium, Clostridium botulinum, and created a new form with new properties, free of unwanted toxic effects.
Lead author Professor Bazbek Davletov, of Sheffield University, said: “Currently, painkillers can only relieve chronic pain temporarily and often have unwanted side effects.
“A single injection of the new nonparalytic blocker at the site of pain could potentially relieve pain for many months in humans and this now needs to be tested. We hope the engineered drug could improve the quality of life for the millions of people worldwide who suffer from chronic pain.”
Startup company Neuresta is now working on nerve blockers tailored for various neurological conditions using UCL’s technique.
Prof Davletov added: “This new programme of biopharmaceutical development could make it possible to produce a variety of Botox-like medicines in a safer and more economical way.”
Botox holds great promise for pain relief, but up to now its paralytic activity has proved to be a stumbling block.
The team has shown that their newly engineered neurotoxin is non- paralysing in pre- clinical studies at UCL and the universities of Sheffield and Reading.
This bright future could bring a form of chronic pain relief that could last as long as a single Botox injection – around four to five months.
And that could be such a game-changer for as much as 20% of the population who are thought to be suffering chronic pain.
Co-author Professor Steve Hunt, of UCL, said: “If this is proven safe and effective in human trials, we hope our newly developed treatment could one day bring much-needed relief for the millions of people who are living with chronic pain.”
Good news indeed.