Kip Ludwig, an associate professor in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neurological Surgery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will lead a more than $2 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to test a novel liquid metal electrode as an alternative means of treating chronic back pain.
The project is part of the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, or the NIH HEAL Initiative, which launched in April 2018 to improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction and enhance pain management.
Ludwig and collaborators at UW-Madison will partner with Doug Weber (University of Pittsburgh), Andrew Shoffstall (Case Western Reserve University), Scott Lempka (University of Michigan) and Manfred Franke (Neuronoff, a medical device company) to test a previously developed liquid composite material that cures after an injection. They’ll target the dorsal root ganglion, part of the spinal nerve, and electrically stimulate it, potentially offering a minimally invasive and nonaddictive alternative to opioids for relieving pain.
“Right now there is a huge market for spinal cord stimulators that are invasively implanted, and the hope is to flip this, so that it’s accessible to anyone, anywhere,” says Ludwig, who will work with UW-Madison biomedical engineering colleagues Justin Williams, Aaron Suminski and James Trevathan, a postdoctoral fellow with the Grainger Institute for Engineering. Ludwig is the neuroengineering lead at the Grainger Institute.
The project is one of 375 NIH grant awards across 41 states in the 2019 fiscal year to combat the national opioid crisis.
“It’s clear that a multi-pronged scientific approach is needed to reduce the risks of opioids, accelerate development of effective non-opioid therapies for pain and provide more flexible and effective options for treating addiction to opioids,” says NIH Director Francis S. Collins. “This unprecedented investment in the NIH HEAL Initiative demonstrates the commitment to reversing this devastating crisis.”