Five focused ultrasound research groups have received novel National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants to study using the technology for pain management in a wide variety of applications.
Launched in April 2018, Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) is an aggressive, trans-agency NIH initiative to speed scientific solutions to the national opioid public health crisis. Last month, the program announced that it had awarded $945 million to researchers working to improve treatments for chronic pain, curb the rates of opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose, and achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction.
Investigators from Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Nashville, TN), the University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT), Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PN), the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), and Stanford University (Stanford, CA) will use the funding to assess the use of focused ultrasound in pain management through neuromodulation, brain lesioning, and non-opioid drug delivery.
Three of the five awards are for neuromodulation – two seek to develop new transcranial neuromodulation devices and another targets peripheral nerves for the treatment of low back pain. The brain lesioning project will use focused ultrasound to perform mesencephalotomy in patients with head and neck cancer, and the drug delivery project will optimize the parameters and initiate a human clinical trial for delivering nanoparticles loaded with ketamine to patients with chronic osteoarthritic pain.
The project titles, principal investigators, and award institutions include:
- “Development of an MRgFUS system for Precision-targeted Neuromodulation of Pain Circuits with Simultaneous Functional MRI” by Charles F. Caskey, PhD, Li Min Chen, MD, PhD, and William A. Grissom, PhD, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering).
- “Focused Ultrasound Neuromodulation of Dorsal Root Ganglion for Noninvasive Mitigation of Low Back Pain” by Viola Rieke, PhD, at the University of Utah (funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases).
- “Treating Pain in Sickle Cell Disease by Means of Focused Ultrasound Neuromodulation” by Bin He, PhD, at Carnegie Mellon University (funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering).
- “Transcranial Focused Ultrasound for Head and Neck Cancer Pain: A Pilot Study” by Jeffrey W. Elias, MD, at the University of Virginia (funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke).
- “Clinical Translation of Ultrasonic Ketamine Uncaging for Non-Opioid Therapy of Chronic Pain” by Raag D. Airan, MD, PhD, and Nolan R. Williams, MD, at Stanford University (funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke).
More funding opportunities are available through the HEAL Initiative: Click here to search open funding announcements.