Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.

Dr. Marc A. Huntoon on Pain Research at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

— -- Hi, my name is Dr. Marc Huntoon. I'm the chair of the Division of Pain Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I've been asked to talk about some of the current research directions in dealing with chronic pain.

I think many of you know that physicians are in a quandary a bit. On the one hand, we want to treat chronic pain effectively, and therefore we've pushed to have our patients' pain relieved by drugs such as the opioids, drugs that can be habit-forming for some patients. And this has led to problems with abuse of these drugs on the street because they're certainly more available. Our kids are taking them. All sorts of people, especially celebrities, make the news, because they've done things that perhaps they shouldn't have with these drugs. On the other hand, we've got patients who are suffering with pain. So I think one area of research is to try to make these drugs, these opioids, work better and to deal with their side effects more effectively.

I think the other area of research with drugs is specifically to find drugs that are non-opioids that can actually work on pain pathways as well. And certainly, many of these drugs that we're looking at now are classically considered in the anti-seizure or the anti-depressant classes. And it turns out that many of these medications are very effective in treating pain.

I think the other area of ongoing pain research is quite significant is looking at some of the areas where we try to stimulate certain pathways in the spine, or in the peripheral nerves with electrical devices. And this is really exploding right now, and here at Mayo we're doing many studies looking at the outcomes of applying these various stimulation technologies to patients' pain syndromes.

Other than that, I think there are a whole host of things that are on the horizon. Genetic therapies may come into play. We can actually tailor different approaches to a certain patient based on their unique genetic profile. So I think the future is bright for many of these pain syndromes and our ability to treat them.