Researchers have found out a high-precision gene-editing technique to block chronic pain instead of using opioid-based painkillers which can be addictive. A technique named Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is used to replace a defective ‘target’ gene with a normal gene. But using the newly-discovered technique, the target gene, known to cause sensitivity to pain, can be repressed without creating permanent changes.
Navega Therapeutics developed the gene therapy to target pain claiming it is non-addictive, highly specific, and long-lasting. Navega co-founder Fernando Aleman Guillen explained, in a blog, how the innovative gene therapy solutions may hold the answer to precision pain management.
“Current standard of care for chronic and severe pain often relies on opioids, which can have adverse side effects and significant addiction risk,” wrote Guillen.
“Although gene therapy for pain does show some promising results, large-scale human trials are yet to show success and wide everyday application in clinical practice,” Guillen added.
Navega co-founder explained that opioid can cause itchiness, sedation, nausea, respiratory depression, constipation, and euphoria. But he warned about the long-term side-effects such as tolerance against it where higher doses are required to achieve the same effect. Other worrying effects include physical dependence where abruptly discontinuing the drug leads to withdrawal symptoms.
Drug overdose of opioids is also a huge issue which leads to death from respiratory depression and can significantly impact public health. Through the new technique if CRISPR, cancer patients can continue with their chemotherapy which causes a lot of pain. According to a British daily, another co-founder Ana Moreno said that pain increases with increase in the dose of chemotherapy and cancer patients often opt-out from it. Navega Therapeutics is developing the CRISPR treatment for long-term pain relief with a methodology dubbed as ‘pain LATER’.
“Instead of creating breaks in the genetic makeup, Navega is using a ‘dead’ Cas9 (dCas9) protein that still has the DNA tracking ability without creating permanent mutations in the genome,” wrote Guillen.