“There is one particular population of nociceptive (pain-sensing) neurons that is responsible for transmitting many types of pain from the body to the central nervous system,” Mannes said.
“We have isolated these neurons and used RNA-Seq to find out every molecule, and how much of each one, these neurons make. A new level of understanding has been achieved that provides a more complete roadmap to the molecules in sensory neurons that underlie acute, inflammatory and chronic pain.”
Through collaborations with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, their effort resulted in a drug called resiniferatoxin, also known as RTX, which is undergoing clinical trials to alleviate severe pain in patients with advanced cancer
RTX is a non-opioid, non-addictive substance.
It targets a protein produced by pain-sensing neurons and used for sensing heat and inflammation called transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1). RTX selectively takes out the TRPV1 pain neurons while sparing other sensory neurons. But, this is a permanent solution, the pain neurons do not grow back.
Mannes and Iadarola are now researching new substances that will temporarily alleviate pain without permanently impairing pain neurons. Through their research on the RNA-Seq datasets, they have identified several new targets that have the potential for analgesic (pain relief) drug development. They are currently in the preclinical research phase