Pain Researcher Awarded NIH Grant to Study Light-Induced Analgesia

Padma Gulur, MDThe National Institutes of Health has awarded Duke Anesthesiology’s Padma Gulur, MD, a $160,875, two-year, R03 grant for her project, titled “Opioid Sparing Potential of Light-Induced Analgesia: A Pilot Trial of a Novel, Non-Pharmacological Treatment for Pain.”

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, having surpassed automotive collision fatalities for the first time. The majority of these deaths involve opioids. Exposure to opioid analgesics during medical care is a key driver of the opioid epidemic. Reducing clinical opioid exposures is crucial for the prevention of drug abuse, yet opioids remain essential first-line agents in treating pain, and it remains vital that pain be appropriately managed.

Gulur’s project will examine the opioid-sparing and pain-relieving potential of a novel, non-pharmacological treatment for pain; recent pre-clinical work has identified an anti-nociceptive effect of green light. Visually mediated cognitive and biological effects of specific color ranges of light are broadly recognized in areas of affect and circadian rhythm. Similar effects on pain perception are less understood. Gulur will conduct a pilot trial of the potential for green-spectrum light exposure as an opioid-sparing analgesic adjunct.

Non-pharmacological strategies are essential to help resolve the opioid/pain conflict, but these strategies are limited in efficacy, applicability, and can be challenging to integrate into existing clinical care. “Opioid-sparing approaches that are broadly-effective and easily-adoptable are of considerable value,” says Gulur, professor of anesthesiology. “The recent preclinical studies have shown that exposure to green light can produce robust and sustained pain relief in animal models of both acute and chronic pain. We are excited to receive funding to study this phenomenon in a clinical trial where patients will be exposed to green light and their pain relief and response will be measured.”

Stacey HiltonPain Researcher Awarded NIH Grant to Study Light-Induced Analgesia