Radiotracer Technology Helps Enable Pain Visualization

by Sharena Rice, contributing editor

April 2024 issue

Radiotracers, pivotal in advancing neurotechnology and bioelectronic medicine, allow for the noninvasive visualization of biochemical processes, particularly in the brain. These compounds, tagged with radioactive elements, are used in PET imaging techniques to provide detailed views of cellular and molecular biological activities. Their role is vital for understanding and treating complex neurological and physiological conditions.

Radiotracers are invaluable in providing deeper insights into disease mechanisms, monitoring disease progression, and evaluating therapeutic efficacy. Their application spans studying neurodegenerative diseases, facilitating neural stimulation therapies for chronic conditions such as neuropathic pain, and illustrating how electronic devices interact with the nervous system. By enabling precise visualization of neural activities and pain pathways, PainVox’s radiotracers are essential for developing and evaluating treatments. The company is based at the El Camino Health Mountain View Hospital in California, and their radiolabels have been used in over a hundred difficult-to-treat cases for chronic pain.

Application in Pain Management

PainVox has been a pioneer in utilizing radiotracers for advanced pain management, particularly for chronic conditions that typically elude standard medical imaging due to their non-visible origins. Through advanced imaging, PainVox has successfully located chronical pain generators in numerous patients previously thought to have undiagnosable pain conditions, facilitating targeted and effective interventions. By concentrating on pain that persists longer than six months, PainVox is addressing the gaps where traditional imaging fails, particularly when the pain’s origins are molecular rather than morphological. By integrating PET scans with CT or MRI, PainVox aims to enable clinicians to target pain generators directly, thereby enhancing treatment precision and outcomes.

Dave Singhal, PainVox’s co-founder and CEO, noted that PainVox’s radiotracers have similarities to FDG and Pylarify, which are widely used in radiology today. Painvox’s isotope is 18F, which has a short half-life of about 2 hours, and is given at a dose below a physiologically active level. This ensures that the radiolabel does not interfere with the pain itself and that residual radioactivity in the body diminishes quickly.

Collaborative Potential in Biomedicine

According to Singhal, “We believe that pain imaging will allow neurostim devices, applications, and dosing to advance. We are looking to partner with companies in neurostim interested in pushing the field forward.”

Using radiotracer technology to image chronic pain in research and the clinic can expedite progress. As healthcare continues to move towards more personalized treatment plans, the demand for precise diagnostic tools like radiotracers will grow.

There is an emerging need for effective radiolabels that can specifically visualize chronic pain, a condition affecting millions globally and often associated with significant healthcare costs and reduced quality of life. Current diagnostic methods fall short in accurately pinpointing the sources of chronic pain, leading to less effective treatments and increased healthcare utilization. By developing radiolabels that can accurately detect and illustrate pain at the molecular level, PainVox is improving the management and treatment of chronic pain, offering hope to those who suffer from these debilitating conditions.

Challenges and Future Prospects

While developing new radiotracers involves sophisticated processes and extensive preclinical testing, the benefits to personalized medicine and diagnostics are significant. The approach taken by PainVox promises to refine treatment modalities in pain management, leading to more targeted and effective interventions. As the integration of these innovative imaging compounds continues to evolve, their role in enhancing our understanding and treatment of complex biological processes remains indispensable. PainVox’s pioneering efforts in radiotracer technology continue to be central to the advancement of neurotechnology and bioelectronic medicine, paving the way for more precise and patient-centered healthcare solutions. This may be a foundational step in the advancement of neurotechnology and bioelectronic medicine for pain.