A quarter of the world's inhabitants regularly suffer from chronic pain. It differs significantly from an acute pain. In contrast to the sensation of hitting the finger with a hammer, sometimes chronic pain has no clear cause and can last the whole life. It continuously affects mental and physical health, reducing the productivity of life. Many people who experience any chronic pain all the time become drug addicts.
The Weiman Scientific Institute in Israel found an approach to the problem. The scientists proposed an original way to treat that ailment by focusing on the key factors leading to the activation of genes in peripheral nerve cells that play a role in many forms of chronic pain.
The pain begins in sensory neurons. They are capable of transmitting information from the skin to the central nervous system. Damage to these neurons or chronic trauma causes some kind of short circuit, as a result the neurons constantly send signals of pain to the brain. Professor Mike Feinsilber believes that it is necessary to investigate the molecules involved in regulating the biomolecular transmission of messages that are formed in these nerve cells.
The signaling molecules are called imports. They are in every cell and their main purpose is to serve as conductors between the nucleus and the cytoplasm of the cell. Molecules move around and control the access to genes. In peripheral nerve cells, that role is of particular importance, the messages can be transmitted in just a few hours.
The researchers found that some imports transmit messages about damaged nerve cells, and in doing so, trigger a repair mechanism. It turned out that there is a certain importin, Alpha-3, it is the only one that controls pain pathways.
The scientists identified a pattern of gene expression associated with long-term pain in peripheral nerve cells and were able to see an association with the activity of importin Alpha-3. Experiments in mice showed the ability to accumulate importin, and when it occurs, a chronic pain is relieved.
The research results indicate that the method is critical in the treatment of late and chronic pain and can be used in humans as well.