Neuropathic pain is a type of chronic pain that occurs even after the source of the pain is gone. Both brain and spinal cord injuries can create these inappropriate messages of pain to the brain. A recent study found that saxitoxin, a neurotoxin derived from shellfish, can block this pain signal and therefore delay the onset of neuropathic pain.
Researchers found that a single injection of saxitoxin delayed the onset of neuropathic pain by two days. However, three injections of saxitoxin over 12 days blocked the onset of neuropathic pain for a month.
Neuropathic pain is difficult to treat, with methods ranging from medications that are often not very effective to drastic and potentially dangerous surgery. Saxitoxin has the potential to become a more effective and safer treatment than current options.
Shankarappa SA, Tsui JH, Kim KN, et al. Prolonged nerve blockade delays the onset of neuropathic pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. (November 2012).