Stem Cell Therapy Found To Reverse Opioid Tolerance
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and the Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University in China have found that mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSCs) can prevent or reverse opioid tolerance, as well as opioid-induced hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain) due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
The authors note that “opioid tolerance (OT) and opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH) are major challenges in medicine.”
For the study, scientists induced opioid tolerance in mice and rats by injecting them with morphine for several weeks. They discovered that after administering MSC therapy to the rodents, tolerance was reversed in just a matter of days, and the injections appeared safe.
All animals exhibited normal movement, food/water intake, and weight gain. All of the rodent’s major organs, including liver and kidneys, functioned normally. The researchers concluded that MSCs have “enormous potential to profoundly impact clinical practice and improve opioid efficacy and safety.”
This finding could be critical in the battle against the opioid epidemic, which is now killing tens of thousands of people in the U.S. each year and leaves millions more addicted.
Tolerance occurs when increasing amounts of a drug is needed to achieve the desired effect. For patients and people experiencing acute or chronic pain, this results in taking more pills in an attempt to obtain relief from pain.
One byproduct of tolerance is opioid-induced hyperalgesia, which is a side effect of chronic use. Instead of gaining relief from pain, individuals instead experience more sensitivity to pain, and thus, more pain in general.
Taking higher doses of medication is more likely to lead to an overdose, fatal or otherwise. Indeed, the World Health Organization states that people who are dependent on opioids are the group most likely to experience an overdose.
Amidst copious amount of research into opioid addiction and its prevention, the use of stem cells could be one way to save lives.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology