Gen aggravates chronic pain

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Gen presumably exacerbates chronic pain.

(Aug 6, 2010) More and more people suffer from chronic pain. According to estimates, around eight million people in Germany suffer from recurrent chronic pain. Researchers have now discovered a gene that is said to have a significant impact on people's sensation of pain. The gene is apparently responsible for the intensity with which people feel pain. The research work should help to develop new therapies in conventional medicine.

It has long been known that people experience different levels of pain after surgical treatments or accidents. This is the case even if the medical intervention was almost identical. Conversely, this means that certain genes control the sensation of pain. For a long time now, doctors have suspected that there must be a genetic predisposition in patients for the development of chronic pain. A team of international scientists investigated this question in a large-scale study.

According to researchers at the Israeli "Hebrew University" in Jerusalem, the reason for the development of chronic pain depends on a single gene. This could also explain why patients sometimes have a very different feeling of pain in accidents or operations. The discovery should make a decisive contribution to treating chronic pain more effectively in future and to developing new forms of therapy.

In the course of the first study, "Chromosome 15" was first discovered in a series of experiments in mice. In this chromosome, the scientists suspected one or more genetic variants that also influence the sensation of pain.

In a second study, a section of 155 genes was identified in the chromosome, in which the scientists around Ariel Darvasi suspected the pain genes. Using DNA sequence analysis and bioinformatics methods, the researchers discovered a single gene in the course of the study that is very likely to affect animal pain. Until now it was assumed that the identified gene "Cacgn2" only plays a role in the development of epilepsy and is responsible for tasks of the cerebellum. In further animal experiments, the gene was examined more intensively and it was found that the functions are impaired if the gene mutates. Electrophysiological measurements and responses to pain indicated that the "Cacgn2" gene is closely linked to the natural pain warning system.

A third study localized the importance of "Cacgn2" in humans. The genes of breast cancer patients were examined. The breasts were partially or completely surgically removed from the patient during breast cancer therapy. The researchers examined the role of the gene on pain sensation. Here, too, a connection between different variants of Cacgn2 and the subsequent development of chronic pain after surgery could be demonstrated.

According to the scientists, the results should now help to develop new methods in the treatment of chronic pain. Study leader Ariel Darvasi was accordingly optimistic: "Our discovery could open up the possibility of treating chronic pain with new, previously unconsidered methods". However, further studies on this topic would have to be undertaken to deepen and substantiate the results. The results were published in the medical journal "Genome Research".

What is chronic pain?
In medicine, a distinction is made between pain as a warning signal and chronic pain. Because the acute sensation of pain is a warning sign of a physical impairment, chronic pain is partially detached from the original function as a warning signal and acts independently. After amputation, nerve cells can also report pain to the brain from regions of the body where, for purely organic reasons, there shouldn't be any pain. From the point of view of naturopathy, the findings of the scientists from Jerusalem are interesting because they could offer a new option in the treatment of therapy-resistant pain. Most representatives of naturopathic manual forms of therapy such as osteopathy or the fascia distortion model, however, reject the claim that genes are the sole representative of chronic pain. (sb, tf)

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