New research has shown success at blocking specific molecules involved in maintaining pain following a nerve injury, significantly lowering patient discomfort. The tests were successful in laboratory mice, indicating that it might prove effective in human tests, and the method is simple and easy for doctors to perform.

The research focused on pain associated with injuries to sciatic nerves, looking specifically at the function of a molecule called high-mobility group box-1 (HMGB1). The Hiroshima University team tested the molecule-blocking drug, known as anti-HMGB1, on laboratory mice, where it successfully alleviated pain from the injuries without any negative impact on healing.

Aside from providing effective pain relief, the new drug may also be less addictive and have less side effects than common pain relievers such as morphine, using different chemical pathways. Furthermore, the researchers found that when the drug was used to block HMGB1, it also inhibited another molecule called matrix metalloprotease-9 (MMP-9), which could provide another means of relieving pain.

The work represents the first time that a link has been found between HMGB1 and MMP-9, and the finding led researchers to consider that inhibiting the latter might actually provide a more direct route to pain relief.

The team injected anti-HMGB1 into the hip areas of the mice, in the tissue surrounding the nerve. According to the researchers, the delivery method is simple and largely risk-free, avoiding possible side effects of delivering drugs through the digestive system via pills, or through injections into the blood.

Overall, the research clearly identifies anti-HMGB1 as a good candidate for providing patients with relief from nerve pain, potentially without risks associated with existing pain relievers. As always though, clinical trials could paint a different picture, so we won't know for sure if the method might be useful until human tests are attempted.

The researchers published their work in the Journal of Neurochemistry.