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Nanotechnology Could Help Ease Soldiers' Pain

A battlefield 'pen' might deliver drug to injury site, scientists hope

TUESDAY, Aug. 14, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers are studying ways to use super-small nanoparticles to easily deliver painkillers to injured soldiers.

The team at the University of Michigan say they have received a $1.3 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to conduct the study.

The goal is to develop tiny painkiller-bearing particles that can be injected with a pen-like device that can be used by injured soldiers' comrades, or even injured soldiers themselves, on the battlefield. Ideally, the devices would provide safe and effective pain relief until a wounded soldier could receive more expert medical help.

"This proposal provides an approach to achieve sustained, safe pain control on the battlefield," research team leader James R. Baker Jr., director of the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences, said in a prepared statement.

"It uses different medicines coupled to polymers to release drugs and antidotes to provide adequate pain relief while avoiding complications. If successful, it could markedly improve the treatment of soldiers in the field," Baker said.

Morphine, a painkiller commonly used to treat wounded soldiers, needs to be injected by skilled medical personnel, notes a U-M news release. Patients who receive morphine need to be monitored carefully, because the painkiller can cause breathing problems.

The Michigan team will design and test different kinds of nanoparticles. The objective is to create nanoparticles that can:

  • control the release of morphine over extended periods to ensure pain relief until a soldier can be evacuated to a military acute care facility;
  • continuously monitor the soldier's breathing and, if needed, release the drug Naloxone, which counters morphine's effects on breathing.

More information

There's more on pain management at the American Cancer Society.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, July 30, 2007
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