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UA Researchers Seek More Targeted Path to Fighting Pain

Researchers are developing a class of painkillers that could offer an alternative to opioids, or at least way to taper down their dosage.

While some areas of medicine boast laser-like precision, many painkillers remain blunt tools that indiscriminately muffle or mute nervous system signals.

Beyond possible side effects, such methods risk silencing the good pain with the bad.

Raj Khanna, a professor of pharmacology and anesthesiology at University of Arizona and his UA colleagues, May Khanna and Vijay Gokhale, are taking a more fine-tuned approach. Instead of muzzling the Nav1.7 sodium channel, a key pain transmitter, they adjust its volume knob: a protein called CRMP2.

"The pain-sensing function is still maintained — it's just that the chronic pain, or the pain that has no adaptive function, is actually what's dampened," Khanna said.

The group's spinout company, Regulonix, remains years away from human trials.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health have awarded the company a $300,000 Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer grant to support development.

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Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk from 2016 to 2024.