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Damage to nerves during surgery or after an injury can lead to long-term pain. Scientists have found that specialised cells help to remove damaged nerve fibres, allowing new healthy nerves to re-grow, ameliorating nerve pain.

Nk cells © Alexander Davies
Natural Killer cells invading a damaged nerve
‘If we can tailor current treatments to help the Natural Killer cells remove damaged nerves we may have a way to speed the recovery from a painful nerve injury without the narcotic side-effects of other pain killers. - Alexander Davies

It is already known that Natural Killer cells play an important role in fighting cancer, in both mice and humans. In some cancer treatments, their function is enhanced by using drugs to make the cells more active.

In this new pain research, led by Alexander Davies and Simon Rinaldi, and funded by the National Research Council of Korea, the MRC, NIH and ERC, the team used a similar approach to make the Natural Killer cells more effective in removing damaged nerve fibres in mice. They showed that better removal of these damaged fibres reduced the hypersensitivity associated with chronic nerve pain.

Read more on the University of Oxford website