British scientists, in collaboration with U.S.-based biopharmaceutical startup company Neuresta, have successfully developed a novel, elongated botulinum neurotoxin that offers a potential solution for chronic pain management without the risks of paralysis or addiction.

The recent study, published in the journal Life Science Alliance, highlights that a single injection of the engineered botulinum neurotoxin has shown long-lasting pain relief in mouse models, without any adverse effects. This promising development holds the potential for a safer and more effective approach to managing chronic pain, providing hope for improved treatment options in the future.

Led by professor Bazbek Davletov, PhD, chair of biomedical science from the University of Sheffield’s School of Biosciences, and research associate Charlotte Leese, a team of scientists from the University of Sheffield has developed an innovative approach to rebuilding Botox by utilizing elements of Clostridium botulinum. With funding from the U.K. Medical Research Council, the team was able to break down Botox into two separate parts and then reassemble them in an elongated configuration, like assembling Lego blocks, resulting in a biopharmaceutical with new properties and without toxic effects.

The conventional painkillers currently available only provide temporary relief for chronic pain and often come with unwanted side effects. This breakthrough in Botox modification holds promise for offering a more effective and safer solution for chronic pain management. “Our innovative approach could pave the way for developing a new class of therapeutics to treat chronic pain and other conditions, providing much-needed relief to millions of people worldwide,” Daveltov says.

The researchers are optimistic that a single injection of the newly developed non-paralytic blocker at the site of pain could potentially provide relief for several months in humans, though further testing is needed to confirm its efficacy. The potential of this engineered drug to improve the quality of life for millions of people worldwide who suffer from chronic pain is promising.

As a result of the promising findings, the technology has been transferred to Neuresta. The Neuresta team is now actively working on developing neuronal blockers customized for different neurological conditions using the innovative bonding technique. This development has opened doors for further advancements in the field of chronic pain management and other related conditions, offering hope for improved treatment options in the future.

Davletov also highlighted that this new biopharmaceutical development program could potentially lead to the production of a variety of Botox-like medicines in a safer and more cost-effective manner.

Unlike current Botox and Dysport injections which primarily work by paralyzing muscles, the newly engineered botulinum biopharmaceutical acts as a non-paralyzing neuronal blocker, specifically targeting pain-linked nerves without causing muscle paralysis. This breakthrough has the potential to overcome the limitation of Botox for pain relief and pave the way for more effective and safer treatment options for chronic pain.

In collaborative preclinical studies conducted at the Universities of Sheffield, University of Reading, and University College London, the team demonstrated that their engineered neurotoxin is effective in reducing pain-like behavior in models of human pain. The method could potentially provide relief for chronic pain lasting as long as a single Botox injection, which typically lasts around four to five months.