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New Eye-Tracking Device from AlgometRx Targets Stimuli Reactions

January 25, 2019
Research into the brain is hoped to determine biomarkers for pain response

A recent AP article1 featured AlgometRx (Washington, DC), an experimental new eye-tracking device that represents an integration of pupillary responses to light (pupillometry) and neurospecific neurostimulation (NSM) with an add-on module to a Smartphone. With a built-in software, users can determine specific pain types (such as neuropathic or nociceptive) and detect and measure analgesic drug effects by evaluating parameters of the Pupillary Light Reflex (PLR) and Pupillary Reflex Dilation (PRD).2

In an opportunity to replaced the traditional, observational and/or self-reported Visual Analog Scale (VAS), developer Julia Finkel, MD, pediatric anesthesiologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, and director of pain research at Children’s Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, said that the eyes can offer a window to pain centers in the brain. The device tracks pupillary reactions to light or non-painful stimulation of certain nerve fibers, aiming to link different patterns to different intensities and types of pain. “If we can’t measure pain, we can’t fix it,” she was quoted as saying in the article.

In late November 2018, AlgometRx was one of eight companies selected by FDA3 as part of its Innovation Challenge in an effort to speed its development as a rapid drug screen.

Research into the brain is hoped to determine biomarkers for pain response. (Source: 123RF)

The development of such a device has been spurred by NIH support, what director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, called a “pain-o-meter” in the article to determine what and signal how much pain someone’s in, while also assessing what analgesics might be most useful. “We’re not creating a lie detector for pain,” said David Thomas, PhD, NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse, who oversees the research, in the article. “We do not want to lose the patient voice.”

In other areas, NIH-funded scientists have begun early-stage research into brain scans, pupil reactions, and other possible biomarkers of pain in hopes of better treatment. For example, researchers at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital recently found that MRI scans revealed patterns of inflammation in the brain that may identify either fibromyalgia or chronic back pain,4 while other research has looked more intensely at how changes in brain activity,5 in some cases using electrodes,6 could signal certain types of pain.

NIH’s goal, according to Dr. Thomas in the article, is the need to uncover biomarkers to explain why some recover from acute pain while others develop chronic pain. “Your brain changes with pain,” he said. “A zero-to-10 scale or a happy-face scale doesn’t capture anywhere near the totality of the pain experience.”

Last updated on: February 7, 2019
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