A single injection of modified Botox could relieve pain from migraines, arthritis and back pain for months without any side effects, according to UK researchers.
Botox is best known for smoothing out facial wrinkles, but its pain relieving qualities are increasingly being recognized.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield have created a modified version of Botox by combining the neurotoxins Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium tetani.
Botuilin is the main ingredient in Botox and works by preventing nerve cells from communicating with muscles – which prevents wrinkles from forming.
Clostridium tetani – also known as the tetanus bug —targets the central nervous system and helps ferry the combined toxin to the spinal cord, where it stops pain signals from being transmitted to the brain.
“Currently painkillers relieve lingering pain only temporarily and often have unwanted side effects. A single injection of the new molecule at the site of pain could potentially relieve pain for many months in humans and this now needs to be tested,” said Professor Bazbek Davletov of Sheffield University, who believes the modified Botox could be used to treat several neurological disorders, including chronic pain and epilepsy.
“We hope that the engineered molecule could improve the quality of life for those people who suffer from chronic pain. We are now negotiating transfer of the technology to a major pharmaceutical company,” he said.
The study is featured on the cover of the journal Bioconjugate Chemistry.
Botox received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of chronic migraines in 2010. Injections are made into the head and neck to relieve migraine pain. Botox is also used to treat muscle spasms and excess sweating. The global Botox market is forecast to reach $2.9 billion by 2018.[
Critics say not enough is known about the long term effects of Botox to justify its widespread use. Botox has been linked to respiratory failure and death.
The FDA requires the drug to have a boxed warning cautioning that the effects of the botulinum toxin may spread from the area of injection to other areas of the body, causing symptoms similar to botulism.