Researchers have found evidence for source of chronic pain in humans revealing several new targets showing remarkable sex-specific differences. This potentially lead to new therapeutic avenues in treating neuropathic pain, reports a new study published in Brain.
The research was carried out by scientists at The University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center along with UT Health Science Center at Houston and Baylor College of Medicine. The study utilized specialized nerve cells called dorsal root ganglion (DRG), which was removed from cancer patients who underwent surgery at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center.
RNA sequencing of the dorsal root ganglion cells from patients was done based on differing pain state and gender. The variations in RNA expression revealed promising biochemical pathways which might help in treating chronic pain more effectively.
“This surgery is not done at many places,” said the lead author Dr. Ted Price, UT Dallas’ School of Behavioral and Brain Science, in a news release. “Our patient cohort of 21, though it doesn’t sound like many, is huge relative to any prior human chronic pain study using RNA sequencing.”
Neuropathic pain also known as nerve pain is a type of chronic pain that is stimulated when nerves in central nervous system becomes injured.
Peripheral nevre cells usually fire because of some external stimulus like during a burn or when your fingers get pinched, said Dr.Pradipta Ray, a lead author and scientist at UT Dallas said in an interview. “Sometimes the neurons just keep firing with no current stimulus, leaving people in constant pain.” he added.
“If these cells are firing without any stimulus we can detect what we call spontaneous activity. We have taken a significant step in this study by locating biophysical conduits by which that painful activity travels in the human body.”said Dr. Price.
Dr.Price stated that chronic pain mechanism can differ among men and women. “The signatures of activated genes in the DRG cells differ more by sex than they do by pain state.”.
The computational neurogenomic analysis conducted under Pradipta Ray has helped identify high-quality target genes for future research.
“There are about 50 to 100 genes that look very promising,” said Ray. “Two-thirds of them are either vaguely known or not known at all in terms of their role in pain. I ranked these genes in terms of their potential as a biomarker or therapeutic target, and listed a top 10 for our team to pursue further. These are genes that belong to networks involved in immune signaling and response, and they are expressed differently in males and females.