Nerve damage caused by disease, injury or infection can lead to chronic pain, which affects a staggering 1 in 4 people worldwide.
Bionics Institute researcher, Associate Professor Rachael Richardson says finding a drug-free alternative to medications has become her mission because they often give inadequate relief and cause unwanted side effects.
She says: “My team has developed a nerve stimulation technique that uses a combination of light and electricity, and we’ve shown we can either activate or suppress nerve activity, which both have a role in the treatment of chronic pain.”
Having shown that the new technique can be used to selectively activate the sciatic nerve, her team is now working on selectively suppressing parts of the sciatic nerve causing pain.
“We believe that using this technique will give us unprecedented control over the transmission of pain signals to the brain and remove the need for pain medication.”
A/Prof Richardson was recently awarded a grant by the CASS Foundation to take this research to the next step and with further support, plans to take this research all the way to the clinic to help people suffering from chronic pain.