Researchers at the Texas A&M University College of Dentistry have branched out from teeth related problems, and are busy working on a treatment for migraines. The researchers believe that if all goes well, by using a special type of focused light they might be able to offer pain relief to thousands of migraine sufferers.
Dr. Feng Tao, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Science at the college, has spent the past few months studying the effects of an “amazing” technique called optogenics (a technique which can sometimes relieve orofacial pain and migraines) on animal models. The way it works is that, by using different wavelengths of light, the researchers can target specific neurons in the brain and can either activate or inhibit the areas in question.
The first step, Dr. Tao said, was to test the technique using a tailor- made virus which would make the neurons susceptible to the light. They have to inject the virus to a certain area of the brain to deliver the light-sensitive protein so that the light can be used to activate the proteins later. After the protein takes effect, the best way to administer the light is via a surgically implanted fibre-optic laser. This is the challenge that is currently holding the technique back from development for human use.
However, if effective in animal models, Dr. Tao hopes to work with electrical engineers in the future to find a solution so it can be used for human pain relief.
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