Novel approach to chronic pain relief

Dec 02, 2010
Coping with chronic pain relief

(PhysOrg.com) -- An international team of scientists have found what they believe could be a novel approach to more effective, targeted relief of chronic pain caused by nerve injuries. The research, a collaboration involving the Universities of Toronto, Seoul, Korea and Bristol, is reported in the latest edition of the journal Science.

Previously, scientists have been able to show that a protein molecule known as PKM zeta is required to store memories. In the case of , there is a malfunctioning in the neural process that stores those memories, which prevents the from adapting the subsequent behavioral response which would ordinarily allow it to cope with the pain.

The connections between through synaptic pathways in the are somehow flawed, causing an individual to re-experience pain as the mental record of that pain persists.

This new research has detected the cause for this malfunction and in doing so, has identified a novel target for the treatment of neuropathic pain. By inhibiting PKM zeta in a part of the brain involved in the perception of pain in a mouse model, the international team of scientists have been able to eliminate the painful memory responsible for chronic pain.

Professor Graham Collingridge, from the University of Bristol’s MRC Centre for Synaptic Plasticity, the School of Physiology and Pharmacology, and part of the Bristol Neuroscience network, said: “If this translates to humans, it may be possible one day to treat some forms of chronic pain by inhibiting PKM zeta or other molecules involved in the storage of the painful memory. The challenge will be to target the drug so that it inhibits painful memories but not other forms of memory. “

By studying how brain connections operate in a part of the cortex involved in pain sensation in mice, the team found that the molecule PKM zeta actually serves to maintain pain-induced persistent changes in the brain, thereby prolonging the sensation of chronic pain.

The team combined biochemistry, electrophysiology and behavior to study the role of PKM zeta in the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region known to be activated in humans during painful states. The identification of a molecular basis for chronic pain provides a framework for the development of more effective therapies in the future.

Explore further: Researcher uses MRI to measure joint's geometry and role in severe knee injury

More information: Alleviating Neuropathic Pain Hypersensitivity by Inhibiting PKMzeta in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, is published online by the journal Science, at the Science Express web site on Thursday 2 December 2010.

Related Stories

Chronic Pain Harms the Brain

Feb 06, 2008

People with unrelenting pain don't only suffer from the non-stop sensation of throbbing pain. They also have trouble sleeping, are often depressed, anxious and even have difficulty making simple decisions.

A step forward in targeted pain therapy

Jan 22, 2008

Our bodies sense painful stimuli through certain receptors located in the skin, in joints and many internal organs. Specialized nerve fibers relay these signals coming from the periphery to the brain, where pain becomes conscious. ...

Recommended for you

Infant cooing, babbling linked to hearing ability

1 hour ago

Infants' vocalizations throughout the first year follow a set of predictable steps from crying and cooing to forming syllables and first words. However, previous research had not addressed how the amount ...

Developing 'tissue chip' to screen neurological toxins

2 hours ago

A multidisciplinary team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research is creating a faster, more affordable way to screen for neural toxins, helping flag chemicals that ...

Gene mutation discovered in blood disorder

6 hours ago

An international team of scientists has identified a gene mutation that causes aplastic anemia, a serious blood disorder in which the bone marrow fails to produce normal amounts of blood cells. Studying a family in which ...

Airway muscle-on-a-chip mimics asthma

8 hours ago

The majority of drugs used to treat asthma today are the same ones that were used 50 years ago. New drugs are urgently needed to treat this chronic respiratory disease, which causes nearly 25 million people ...

User comments : 0