Blocking pain wirelessly

Implacable pain from nerve damage, amputations and other irreversible conditions has long defeated medicine’s attempts to quell it. Now, researchers at Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found something that works.

Scientists implanted soft, stretchable micro-LED lights that, when switched on and off, can prevent or allow pain signals to travel from an affected site to the brain. 

Unlike other attempts at similar measures, the new devices are soft and stretchy instead of hard. This allows them to be held against muscle or soft flesh — even organs — with a few stitches. Previous electrical devices had to be anchored to bone. Just as important, the invention can be controlled wirelessly, so wearers don’t need to be tethered to an external power source. The inventors are engineering the device to be mass-produced at a low cost.

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