Inspired by her own pain, a researcher explores alternatives to opioid treatments

October 1st, 2018

The explosion of deaths related to opioid misuse has underscored a pressing need for better ways of treating pain, especially chronic pain.

Duquesne University pharmacology associate professor Jelena Janjic thinks she’s on to one. It involves using a patient’s own immune system to deliver non-opioid pain medication to places in the body where there’s pain.

Janjic’s idea, which draws from the field of cancer research, is to insert tiny amounts of over-the-counter pain medications into minute carriers called nanoparticles, and then inject these into pain patients. The medicines would then travel through the body to places where there is inflammation, and relieve the pain.

Janjic has a special reason for wanting to develop new medicines for chronic pain: She suffers from it herself.

“As a patient, I want an answer,” she says. “I want to figure out this.”

Joe Palca/NPR