Intractable pain may find relief in tiny gold rods

August 21, 2015, Kyoto University
Scientists have developed a technique that could lead to therapies for pain relief in people with intractable pain, potentially including cancer-related pain. Credit: Kyoto University's Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS)

A team of scientists at Kyoto University's Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS) has developed a novel technique using tiny gold rods to target pain receptors.

Gold nanorods are tiny rods that are 1-100 nanometers wide and long. In comparison, a human hair is 100,000 nanometers wide. The team coated gold nanorods with a special type of protein that transports fat within the body known as a lipoprotein. This allowed the nanorods to bind efficiently to nerve cell membranes bearing a called TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1). Near-infrared light was then applied to the nanorod-coated pain receptors. The nanorods heated up, activating the pain receptors to allow an influx of calcium ions through the membrane. Prolonged activation of TRPV1 is known to subsequently lead to their desensitization, bringing pain relief. Importantly, heating the gold nanorods enabled safe activation of the TRPV1 pain receptors alone, without affecting the membrane in which they lie.

Previous studies had shown that (tiny particles in the nano-range made out of magnetic materials) are also able to activate TRPV1 receptors by applying a magnetic field. The target cells in this method, however, require genetic modification for it to work. Using lipoprotein-coated gold nanorods does not require of the target cells. Also, the nanorods were found to have at least 1,000 times greater efficiency than magnetic nanoparticles in heat generation and in activating TRPV1 receptors.

"The gold can be retained in the body for a prolonged period," says Tatsuya Murakami, the principal investigator of this study. "Local injection of our might enable repetitive and on-demand treatment for people experiencing intractable pain because prior genetic engineering of the is unnecessary."

A safe technology was developed to heat TRPV1 receptors by using gold nanorods (AuNRs) coated with a lipoprotein. Under near-infrared light, the gold nanorods heated intact nerve cells without damaging the membrane. Credit: Kyoto University's Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS)

The study was published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition on August 6th, 2015.

Explore further: Gold nanorods target cancer cells

More information: Thermosensitive Ion Channel Activation in Single Neuronal Cells by Using Surface-Engineered Plasmonic Nanoparticles, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Published Online 6 August 2015, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10 … e.201505534/abstract

Related Stories

Gold nanorods target cancer cells

December 18, 2014

Using tiny gold nanorods, researchers at Swinburne University of Technology have demonstrated a potential breakthrough in cancer therapy.

An improved method for coating gold nanorods

March 18, 2015

Researchers have fine-tuned a technique for coating gold nanorods with silica shells, allowing engineers to create large quantities of the nanorods and giving them more control over the thickness of the shell. Gold nanorods ...

Gold-diamond nanodevice for hyperlocalised cancer therapy

July 31, 2015

Precise targeting biological molecules, such as cancer cells, for treatment is a challenge, due to their sheer size. Now ,Taiwanese scientists have proposed an advanced solution, based on a novel combination of previously ...

Recommended for you

Researchers create first superatomic 2-D semiconductor

February 16, 2018

Atoms are the basic building blocks of all matter—at least, that is the conventional picture. In a new study, researchers have fabricated the first superatomic 2-D semiconductor, a material whose basic units aren't atoms ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.