Home Biomedical research Researchers Bioengineered Living Nervous Circuit to Fight Opioid Overdose Crisis

Researchers Bioengineered Living Nervous Circuit to Fight Opioid Overdose Crisis



In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died of opioid overdoses, bringing the total number of deaths from the opioid crisis to half a million in the past 10 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control of the United States.

Michael J. Moore, professor of biomedical engineering at Tulane University School of Science and Engineering, is part of a national study that aims to reverse these statistics by creating a bioengineered living nerve circuit that mimics the pain transmission pathway in the spinal cord. The living cell circuit, designed to help scientists test the effectiveness of non-addictive alternatives to opioid pain relievers, is highlighted in the prestigious journal Scientists progress.

We show that this model system behaves physiologically in a similar way to the circuit that carries the pain signal, and we show that it responds to analgesics, such as morphine and lidocaine, in a reproducible, measurable and distinct way for each type of pain. medication. What we hope is that we can use this model system to more quickly identify potential new candidates for new pain relievers, which can only be done at this time by an arduous series of behavioral studies with animals. “

Michael J. Moore, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Tulane University School of Science and Engineering

The study is his first paper under the HEAL initiative, or Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, a $ 945 million multi-university funding initiative sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Moore’s work is among dozens of research projects underway in the United States as part of HEAL, which was launched in April 2018 to provide scientific solutions to the national opioid overdose crisis, including strategies improved treatment for pain as well as opioid use disorders (OUDs). Funded by Congress, the initiative involves many universities and nearly all NIH institutes and centers to address the crisis from all angles and across disciplines.

Moore’s co-authors on the paper are Kevin J. Pollard, a postdoc in Moore’s lab; Devon A. Bowser, doctoral student graduated from the Bioinnovation program in 2019; Wesley A. Anderson, a scientist at AxoSim, a Tulane spinoff company where research initially began; and Mostafa Meselhe, biomedical engineering student graduating from Tulane in 2020.

He continues to work with Randolph Ashton, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, and Swaminathan Rajaraman, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Central Florida. Ashton is developing spinal neurons derived from human stem cells and Rajaraman is developing specially designed microelectrodes to take electrical measurements from cells.

Moore’s collaborators at Tulane include Jeffrey Tasker, Catherine and Hunter Pierson Chair in Neuroscience, and James Zadina, Director of the Neuroscience Laboratory at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Tulane School of Medicine.

“We expect to receive three more years of funding overnight,” said Moore. “In this next phase of the project, we will seek to better characterize the physiology of our model system, improve its physiological relevance, and determine whether we can mimic some of the biological processes associated with drug tolerance. “


Journal reference:

Pollard, KJ, et al. (2021) Morphine-sensitive synaptic transmission emerges in a rat embryonic microphysiological model of lower afferent nociceptive signaling. Scientists progress. doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abj2899.



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