In what may be a breakthrough for those living with chronic pain, researchers from Oxford University have a new understanding of the mechanisms that cause chronic pain
In a study published in BMJ Magazineestimated that chronic pain affects one-third and a half of the UK population, roughly less than 28 million adults – and that figure is likely to rise in line with the aging population.
But now, a new study from Oxford University has made a discovery that could lead to the development of new treatments for chronic pain.
The researchers were led to the realization that repetitive stimulation – for example, a sharp pin piercing – could lead to an increased sensitivity to pain. This is a process called ‘pain termination’ and contributes to clinical pain disorders.
From here, the researchers compared genetic variations in samples from more than 1,000 participants in Colombia and used them to see if there was any genetic variant more common in people who experienced greater pain ‘spread’. What they found was a significant change in the variants of a specific gene, NCX3.
The next stage was a series of experiments in mice, which sought to understand how this gene regulates ‘pain termination’ and whether it could be a treatment target.
“This is the first time we have been able to study pain in humans and then directly demonstrate the mechanism behind it in rats, which gives us a really broad understanding of the factors involved and how we can get started. to develop new treatments for it. Says Bennett, professor of neurology and neurobiology at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience.
“Chronic pain is a global problem and can be extremely weak. We conducted the study in Colombia because of the mixed backgrounds of the population there, including the native Indian, African, and European populations, which gave us a wide range of genetic diversity to look at. This makes these findings so exciting because of their potential international applications.
“The findings imply that any drug that may increase NCX3 activity will be predicted to reduce pain sensitization in humans.”
Of course, chronic pain affects more than just our physical health, and a study published in Symposium on pain medicine discovered a two-way link between chronic pain and mental health disorders. Chronic pain can cause anxiety, depression and stress. Moreover, many may feel isolated from their pain, either because they are unable to be as active as they once were, or because of social barriers that prevent others from feeling empathy with their experiences.
While pain medication and holistic care currently go in some way to support those with chronic pain, this discovery will bring hope to many people seeking more answers.
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