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A collection of research and information about the effective management of pain.
June 14, 2021
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Pain Management

What Are Trophic Factors?

Trophic factors are specific types of protein molecules that support the survival of cells. Think of them as helper molecules that let cells maintain their connections with the molecules around them. Trophic factors work through receptors on cells to keep them alive. When trophic factors are lacking, the cells may die. This ability to support life in cells holds great promise for treating or even curing diseases. It also has implications for treating brain injuries, neurological disorders, and the reduction of many different kinds of pain, including the long-term intractable kind, once thought untreatable.

Many kinds of trophic factors are generated by neurons, which are cells of the nervous system, and play a role in maintaining and regenerating cells. Current neuroscience research suggests that trophic factors may also play a part in treating brain disorders and injuries. If the behavior of trophic factors is understood, and their receptors can be located, then their genes could be cloned. The cloned genes could be used to alter malfunctioning molecules in patients with neurological disorders.

Delivering trophic factors directly to a cell in need, a form of gene therapy, may help restore it to health. When cells are healthier, the body is healthier. Cells that make trophic factors can be introduced directly into the brain. For example, suppose a patient has experienced cell death in an area of the brain. In that case, trophic factor treatments could be introduced to that area to improve symptoms, delay the advancement of the disease, or even cure it.

What Are Neurotrophic Factors?

Whereas trophic factors support cells of many different kinds, neurotrophic factors support neurons in the central and peripheral nervous systems. They support both developing and mature neurons and play a role in the formation of long-term memory. Animal testing in the lab has found that neurotrophic factors may regrow damaged neurons, something once thought impossible. Other studies have found that a disruption of neurotrophic factors can cause pain. Most neurotrophic factors are members of one of three families:

  • Neurotrophins (including NGF)
  • Glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor family ligands (GFLs)
  • Neuropoietic cytokines

What Are Some Potential Benefits of Trophic Factors?

Researchers know that at least one trophic factor, nerve growth factor (NGF), slows the death of neurons that use acetylcholine. NGF is involved in the life cycle, from reproduction to migration to differentiation, of cells in the nervous system. In laboratory rats, NGF stopped the death of cells and helped regrow neurons that typically die in cases of Alzheimer's.

Animals that demonstrated age-related difficulties with learning and memory showed significant improvement when treated with NGF. In fact, on a particular maze task, the impaired rats performed as well as rats of the same age without impairment. This data is an early indication that NGF may help slow age-related memory loss.

Here are a few more facts that we know about nerve growth factor:

  • NGF is closely associated with inflammation, though the reasons why are still mostly unknown.
  • Administering NGF helps reduce inflammation and pain.
  • The NGF level in the blood goes up when the person is stressed or suffering from an immune disorder, asthma, or arthritis.

Nerve growth factor research has found that the molecules may stop or slow down the growth and possibly help repair damaged nerve fibers in the spinal cord. Nogo-A is a protein that interferes with nerve growth. Swiss scientists used antibodies to override Nogo-A and successfully regrew some nerves in the rats and monkeys with damaged spinal cords. The treated animals showed improvement in their abilities to walk and use the digits of their front paws. Clinical trials of the same technology are underway in humans.

As exciting as these developments are, other newly identified factors hold similar promise. Once scientists understand how they influence neurons, these factors may play a role in treatments and cures for Alzheimer's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson's.

  • Besides other factors, NGF may protect neurons in neonatal hypoxia-ischemia cases, a common cause of cerebral palsy.
  • Researchers note that hypothermia increases neurotrophic factors in the brain after cardiac arrest in rats, which may indicate that trophic factors play a part in the protective role of the temperature extremes.
  • Boosting trophic factors may help neurons return to health in patients with ALS.
  • Improving the regeneration of neurons, either by replacing or increasing the presence of trophic factors, after a cardiac arrest is a promising area for future study.

The science is so far advanced that some trophic factors are available commercially. However, growth factors can't be taken as a pill because they break down as proteins digestion. Also, they don't cross the blood-brain barrier when injected, so that is not a viable delivery method. Scientists have identified some strategies that do work.

  • A trophic factor can be infused into cerebrospinal fluid directly.
  • The trophic factors can be implanted in a sustained-release form.
  • A Trojan horse molecule can carry trophic factors across the blood-brain barrier, an especially promising treatment method for ALS.
  • It may be possible to create a molecule in the lab that imitates trophic factors capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier.
  • Scientists may be able to develop a drug that can carry trophic factors into the nervous system.

How Can RST SANEXAS Help Me With Pain Relief?

Since trophic factors are essential in the health of neurons, they are a potential tool in treating peripheral neuropathy. The disorder will likely be the first successfully treated with NGF since the nerves are easily accessible to proteins. Successful treatment of peripheral neuropathy may open the door to treatment of other neurologic disorders previously considered untreatable.

At RST SANEXAS, we specialize in Electric-Cell Signal Technology (EcST) treatments, which deliver treatment to tissues in the damaged area using electric fields. The technology brings about normal healing processes to relieve pain. The neoGEN-Series® system is a highly advanced medical device for producing electric cell signaling energy waves. This technology reduces pain through various methods, including the improvement of the levels of trophic factors. The system is the first and only device with a clinically researched background and a proven ability to regrow nerves and reverse peripheral neuropathy. Here are some of the additional advantages of the neoGEN-Series® system:

  • It can help address acute, chronic, intractable, and drug-resistant types of pain.
  • In addition to the pain relief potential, the system can also help treat circulatory disorders.
  • Superior to TENS therapy, EcST is noninvasive, comfortable, and delivered to the specified anatomical area.
  • It is covered by most insurance, including Medicare.
  • Side effects are few and easily avoidable.
  • Patient compliance and satisfaction with outcomes are high with EST.

If you're struggling with the pain of peripheral neuropathy, contact RST SANEXAS to find a doctor in your area who can help you with this treatment. Our providers' network is ready to help you escape the day to day discomfort using our cutting edge technology. When you call or submit your information online, a member of our friendly staff will be glad to assist you.