Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gene that controls chronic pain identified

Date:
September 9, 2011
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
A gene responsible for regulating chronic pain, called HCN2, has been identified. Chronic pain comes in two main varieties. The first, inflammatory pain, occurs when a persistent injury (e.g. a burn or arthritis) results in an enhanced sensitivity of pain-sensitive nerve endings, thus increasing the sensation of pain.

A gene responsible for regulating chronic pain, called HCN2, has been identified by scientists at the University of Cambridge. The research, published September 9 in the journal Science, opens up the possibility of targeting drugs to block the protein produced by the gene in order to combat chronic pain.

Approximately one person in seven in the UK suffers from chronic, or long-lasting, pain of some kind, the commonest being arthritis, back pain and headaches. Chronic pain comes in two main varieties. The first, inflammatory pain, occurs when a persistent injury (e.g. a burn or arthritis) results in an enhanced sensitivity of pain-sensitive nerve endings, thus increasing the sensation of pain.

More intractable is a second variety of chronic pain, neuropathic pain, in which nerve damage causes on-going pain and a hypersensitivity to stimuli. Neuropathic pain, which is often lifelong, is a surprisingly common condition and is poorly treated by current drugs. Neuropathic pain is seen in patients with diabetes (affecting 3.7m patients in Europe, USA and Japan) and as a painful after-effect of shingles, as well as often being a consequence of cancer chemotherapy. Neuropathic pain is also a common component of lower back pain and other chronic painful conditions.

Professor Peter McNaughton, lead author of the study and Head of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge, said: "Individuals suffering from neuropathic pain often have little or no respite because of the lack of effective medications. Our research lays the groundwork for the development of new drugs to treat chronic pain by blocking HCN2."

The HCN2 gene, which is expressed in pain-sensitive nerve endings, has been known for several years, but its role in regulating pain was not understood. Because a related gene, HCN4, plays a critical role in controlling the frequency of electrical activity in the heart, the scientists suspected that HCN2 might in a similar way regulate the frequency of electrical activity in pain-sensitive nerves.

For the study, the researchers engineered the removal of the HCN2 gene from pain-sensitive nerves. They then carried out studies using electrical stimuli on these nerves in cell cultures to determine how their properties were altered by the removal of HCN2.

Following promising results from the in vitro studies in cell cultures, the researchers studied genetically modified mice in which the HCN2 gene had been deleted. By measuring the speed the mice withdrew from different types of painful stimuli, the scientists were able to determine that deleting the HCN2 gene abolished neuropathic pain. Interestingly, they found that deleting HCN2 does not affect normal acute pain (the type of pain produced by a sudden injury- such as biting one's tongue).

Professor McNaughton added: "Many genes play a critical role in pain sensation, but in most cases interfering with them simply abolishes all pain, or even all sensation. What is exciting about the work on the HCN2 gene is that removing it -- or blocking it pharmacologically- eliminates neuropathic pain without affecting normal acute pain. This finding could be very valuable clinically because normal pain sensation is essential for avoiding accidental damage."

This is Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and EU funded research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Edward C. Emery, Gareth T. Young, Esther M. Berrocoso, Lubin Chen, and Peter A. McNaughton. HCN2 Ion Channels Play a Central Role in Inflammatory and Neuropathic Pain. Science, September 9, 2011, 1462-1466 DOI: 10.1126/science.1206243

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Gene that controls chronic pain identified." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908145101.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2011, September 9). Gene that controls chronic pain identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908145101.htm
University of Cambridge. "Gene that controls chronic pain identified." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908145101.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins