Researchers from UCLA and University of New South Wales, Sydney, report that they have developed a gel-like material infused with magnetic particles that can exert biomechanical forces to relieve chronic pain. The process works by influencing cell proteins that control the flow of calcium ions, and that are involved in sensations of touch and pain. Lead author Andy Kah Ping, doctoral candidate at UCLA, commented, "Our results show that through exploiting 'neural network homeostasis,' which is the idea of returning a biological system to a stable state, it is possible to lessen the signals of pain through the nervous system." Principal investigator Dino DiCarlo, PhD, professor of bioengineering at UCLA, added, “…recent breakthroughs in the control of forces at small scales have opened up a new treatment idea—using physical force to kick-start helpful changes inside cells. There's a long way to go, but this early work shows this path toward so-called 'mechanoceuticals' is a promising one."
The magnetic gel is composed of hyaluronic acid infused with magnetic particles. The researchers then embedded dorsal root ganglion neurons in the gel and applied a magnetic field to induce a pulling force on the particles which was transmitted to the neurons. The magnet-induced pulling provoked an increase in calcium ion production in the neurons and increases in the magnetic force caused the neurons to reduce the signaling for pain. The authors believe that the same magnetically produced neuromodulation could be used to treat other health conditions besides pain, including heart disease and muscle disorders. The research findings were published in the journal Advanced Materials.
Read about the discovery.
The journal abstract may be read here.
Posted on August 10, 2018