Breakthrough Pain Treatment Or Snake Oil? You Decide.
Let's say you're a scientist, and you've invented what you think is a useful treatment for pain. But you have a problem. You don't have the money to go through the regulatory approval process. Should you try to sell it to consumers anyway, and run the risk of being accused of selling snake-oil?
That's the dilemma Ted Price and his colleagues faced. Price is a researcher at the University of Texas, Dallas. His work focuses on solving a vexing question about pain: why does pain persist even after injuries heal?
Price experienced this himself, from basketball injuries that hurt long after the initial swelling and inflammation went away.
To find the answer, Price and his colleagues focused on chemical signals sent inside nerve cells. They found that a lot of chemical pathways used by these signals were activated inside nerves immediately after an injury, but just two pathways remained activated when pain persisted.
"We had this really great idea a long time ago, that was 2009," says Price. "We would inhibit one of these pathways, and that would solve pain."
There was one small problem with this really great idea. "We were completely wrong," he says. Shutting down just one pathway had no effect on pain.
But they eventually found a compound that seemed to shut down both pathways, acting like a kind of fire extinguisher to the persistent pain signals. It was a natural compound called resveratrol.