Pain is an enormous problem. As an unmet medical need, pain causes suffering and comes with a multi-billion dollar societal cost. Current treatments are problematic because they cause intolerable side effects, diminish quality of life and do not sufficiently quell pain.

The most successful pharmacological approaches for the treatment of chronic pain rely on certain “pathways”: circuits involving opioid, adrenergic, and calcium channels.

For the past decade, scientists have tried to take advantage of these known pathways — the series of interactions between molecular-level components that lead to pain. While adenosine had shown potential for pain-killing in humans, researchers had not yet successfully leveraged this particular pain pathway because the targeted receptors engaged many side effects.