MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?
Answer: We have developed an antibody that can block the pain and itching sensations in mice simultaneously with high efficacy. We would like to point out that our discovery has the potential to be applied to human once the antibody is humanized. Given the high selectivity, general safety profile, and long half-lives of monoclonal antibodies, this method we developed to raise antibodies against therapeutic targets (e.g., ion channels) can have broad applications to other diseases.
MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Answer: We originally developed the antibody to treat inflammatory and neuropathic pain because the ion channel target Nav1.7 is well known to be critical for pain sensation. Surprisingly, we found this antibody also effectively reduced itch in mice. Pain and itch are distinct sensations, and pain is known to suppress itch. It is likely that this antibody targets the common pathway that mediates pain and itch sensation. It is also surprising that this antibody can significantly inhibit inflammation, an underlying cause for various diseases including arthritis.
MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Answer: Although over 30% Americans suffer from chronic pain, current treatments are inadequate and cause significant adverse effects (such as addiction after long-term opioid treatment). Paradoxically, opioid also induces itching in patients. Chronic itch may coexist with chronic pain in some patients. Monoclonal antibodies against key molecular targets (e.g., ion channels) for pain and itch may offer effective and safe therapeutics for treating pain and itch-related problems.
MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Answer: Antibody therapeutics is a rapidly growing field but limited mainly to treating cancer and immune diseases. Our finding suggests that antibody therapeutics can be applied to ion channel-related diseases. Given the immediate and overwhelming responses we got from many big pharms, we expect our discovery will quickly move toward this direction for the development of new drugs that can treat neurological and inflammatory diseases.