Translating Discoveries into Effective Devices to Treat Pain
The Research Need
Opioid misuse is a major factor in the development of opioid use disorder. Advances in technology show promise for identifying new, safer pain management options to improve quality of life and reduce reliance on opioids. Innovative technology designs may also reduce side effects compared to medication-based strategies. Several effective devices for pain have already received approval or clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
About the Program
This program fosters the development of next-generation medical devices to diagnose and treat both pain and opioid use disorder. The research supports preclinical development and translational research efforts to advance promising technologies to readiness for testing in clinical trials.
The program also promotes development of groundbreaking, safe, and effective medical devices via the NIH Blueprint MedTech incubator program. This program supports and de-risks the development of medical devices targeting nervous system disorders, including chronic pain and opioid use disorder, from early development stages through first-in-human clinical trials.
Another focus of the program is to support interdisciplinary team science and academic-industry partnerships to understand how medical devices work to relieve pain. This new body of knowledge will uncover new pain biomarkers and optimize clinical approaches to enhance pain relief for patients.
To date, through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, NIH has contributed $51.5 million to fund this program, which has funded 18 awards.
Research examples supported by this program include:
- Developing an injectable electrode to be inserted into the spinal cord to treat chronic back pain
- Using image-guided technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or electroencephalograms to aim focused ultrasound at specific brain regions to interrupt pain circuits related to chronic pain conditions, such as sickle cell disease pain
- Developing a non-invasive electroacupuncture device to treat pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome
- Developing nanoparticles for intravenous delivery of ketamine using focused ultrasound in specific regions of the brain to treat chronic osteoarthritic pain while avoiding off-target effects
- Using MRI-guided, focused ultrasound to treat head and neck cancer pain
- Using multisite, closed-loop deep brain stimulation to treat chronic neuropathic pain
- Conducting a mechanistic clinical trial to uncover mechanisms underlying pain relief by transcutaneous auricular neurostimulation
- Developing and validating pain-associated outcome measures in non-rodent mammalian models