A recent research by Cleaveland Clinic could establish mesenchymal stem cell transplantation as an innovative, safe, efficacious and cost-effective treatment for pain and opioid tolerance.
Across the world, millions of people suffer under various pain states including cancer pain or other chronic pain and their treatment involves long-term opioid therapy through morphine injections. The flipside to opioid treatment includes development of tolerance (a physiologic condition in which the body gets used to the dose and no longer achieves pain relief), abuse, addiction and overdose.
In the research conducted by Cleveland Clinic, rats were transplanted with mesenchymal stem cells prior to morphine injections. It was observed that opioid tolerance was prevented in the rats. Also, for rats that had developed opioid tolerance, mesenchymal stem cell transplantation helped in reversing the tolerance.
“MSCs have a remarkable anti-inflammatory effect and a powerful anti-tolerance effect,” said the study’s principal investigator, Jianguo Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., who led the research team from the Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio.
Furthermore, Cheng characterized the procedure as practical, in light of readily available sources of stem cells, reliable stem cell technology, the simplicity of transplantation procedures and the fact that clinical trials are already underway involving autoimmune and other diseases.
The next step is to translate the experience of animal experiments to clinical trials. Cheng outlined the need to first determine and optimize the key variables of stem cell transplantation, such as sources of cells, routes of administration, number of cells to transplant and the timing of transplantation.