Racing for Pain Relief

March 7, 2009 1:05:34 PM PST
More than 50 million people live with chronic pain every day, but two of the latest breakthroughs are helping doctors stop their hurt.Nothing stops race car driver Mike Roman. What you can't see on the track is that Mike is a victim of MRSA; a staph infection that ended up taking his leg.

"When the chief of surgery told me they thought they should amputate it, I just wasn't ready," Roman told Ivanhoe. "I'm 29, and I just wanted to be that dad that my dad was to me, and I just didn't envision that with one leg."

His amputation caused even more pain.

"I woke up with phantom limb pain and I had been through so much, but this was entirely off the scale," Roman said.

When drugs failed, he turned to neuromodulation for relief.

"It's very similar to what is done for a pacemaker," Christopher Chisholm, M.D., a pain specialist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., explained to Ivanhoe.

A small incision is made in the back. Electrodes are implanted in the spine. A remote control allows Roman to basically turn on the electrodes and turn off his pain.

"It's now blocked and instead of that painful sensation you get a tingling sensation," Dr. Chisholm said.

Meanwhile, doctors at the University of Michigan are using the herpes virus to relieve pain.

"When you inject it into the skin, it goes into the sensory neuron that's right next to the spinal cord," David Fink, M.D., a neurologist at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., told Ivanhoe.

The gene for one of the body's natural painkillers is inserted into the virus. The virus acts as a shuttle. When injected into the skin, it carries the gene directly to nerves. Soon the body produces more painkillers that block pain signals. Gene therapy and neuromodulation: two new ways that may help millions live med-free and pain-free.

"It was the first time that I had hope," Roman said.

It's been a long road and now mike is able to reach the finish line without pain.

The herpes virus that's used to shuttle genes is not active and will not give patients herpes. The first human clinical trial is currently recruiting participants who have terminal cancer.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

University of Michigan Back and Pain Center
http://www.med.umich.edu/anes/pain
Race Against Pain
http://www.RaceAgainstPain.com

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