Breakthrough test reveals pain in colour

An on-the-spot blood test that identifies chronic pain by colour 'biomarkers' has the potential to revolutionise its diagnosis, Australian researchers say.

It can be hard to know when a baby or dementia patient is in persistent pain because they either can't or struggle to communicate their level of suffering.

But a breakthrough blood test that identifies chronic pain using colour biomarkers could fix this challenging situation faced by many doctors.

The world-first test, called the 'painHS' test, was developed by a team of Australian scientists after discovering chronic pain is biologically a different colour in immune cells to regular acute pain.

The test is able to differentiate between the colours of pain in the blood using light measurement tools, immediately detecting those in chronic pain.

"We are literally quantifying the colour of pain," said neuroscientist Professor Mark Hutchinson, who will reveal the test at a meeting of the Faculty of Pain Medicine in Sydney on Sunday.

One in five people in Australia suffer chronic pain.

Prof Hutchinson believes this test will be a cost-effective way for doctors to accurately determine the severity of chronic pain in patients with back issues, cancer and migraine.

Those who are unable to describe their pain suffering, like very young children and those with dementia, will especially benefit, he says.

"Self-reporting (by patients) is still going to be key but what this does is that those forgotten people who are unable to communicate their pain conditions such as babies or people with dementia can now have their condition diagnosed and treated," he said.

It also has the potential to revolutionise pain treatment for animals, Prof Hutchinson said.

"Animals can't tell us if they're in pain but here we have a Dr Doolittle-type test that enables us to 'talk' to the animals, so we can find out if they are experiencing pain and then we can help them," he said.

It's hoped the painHS test will be ready for broader use by pain medicine physicians and GPs within 18 months.

Published 6 May 2018 at 6:04am
Source: AAP