Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gene discovery may soothe chronic pain

MCGILL/U. TORONTO (CAN) — The identification of a gene responsible for the pain receptor changes behind chronic pain could lead to individual treatments.

A major challenge for treating chronic pain is to understand why certain people develop pain while others, with apparently similar disorders or injuries, do not. An equally important challenge is to develop individualized therapies that will be effective in specific patient populations.

Research published online in Nature Medicine points to solutions to both challenges. A research team led by Jeffrey Mogil of McGill University and Michael Salter of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), affiliated with the University of Toronto, has identified a major gene affecting chronic pain sensitivity. The findings also suggest a new approach to individualizing treatment of chronic pain.

The gene that the researchers identified encodes the pain receptor known as P2X7. Specifically, the scientists discovered that a single amino-acid change in P2X7 controls sensitivity to the two main causes of chronic pain: inflammation and nerve damage.


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