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Picturing pain could help unlock its mysteries, improve treatments

Date:
December 11, 2013
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Understanding the science behind pain, from a simple "ouch" to the chronic and excruciating, has been an elusive goal for centuries. But now, researchers are reporting a promising step toward studying pain in action. In a study published, scientists describe the development of a new technique, which they tested in rats, that could result in better ways to relieve pain and monitor healing.
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Understanding the science behind pain, from a simple "ouch" to the chronic and excruciating, has been an elusive goal for centuries. But now, researchers are reporting a promising step toward studying pain in action. In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, scientists describe the development of a new technique, which they tested in rats, that could result in better ways to relieve pain and monitor healing.

Sandip Biswal, Frederick T. Chin, Justin Du Bois and colleagues note that current ways to diagnose pain basically involve asking the patient if something hurts. These subjective approaches are fraught with bias and can lead doctors in the wrong direction if a patient doesn't want to talk about the pain or can't communicate well. It can also be difficult to tell how well a treatment is really working. No existing method can measure pain intensity objectively or help physicians pinpoint the exact location of the pain. Past research has shown an association between pain and a certain kind of protein, called a sodium channel, that helps nerve cells transmit pain and other sensations to the brain. Certain forms of this channel are overproduced at the site of an injury, so the team set out to develop an imaging method to visualize high concentrations of this protein.

They turned to a small molecule called saxitoxin, produced naturally by certain types of microscopic marine creatures, and attached a signal to it so they could trace it by PET imaging. PET scanners are used in hospitals to diagnose diseases and injuries. When the researchers injected the molecule into rats, often a stand-in for humans in lab tests, they saw that the molecule accumulated where the rats had nerve damage. The rats didn't show signs of toxic side effects. The work is one of the first attempts to mark these sodium channels in a living animal, they say.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aileen Hoehne, Deepak Behera, William H. Parsons, Michelle L. James, Bin Shen, Preeti Borgohain, Deepika Bodapati, Archana Prabhakar, Sanjiv S. Gambhir, David C. Yeomans, Sandip Biswal, Frederick T. Chin, J. Du Bois. A18F-Labeled Saxitoxin Derivative forin VivoPET-MR Imaging of Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel Expression Following Nerve Injury. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2013; 135 (48): 18012 DOI: 10.1021/ja408300e

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American Chemical Society. "Picturing pain could help unlock its mysteries, improve treatments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211131721.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2013, December 11). Picturing pain could help unlock its mysteries, improve treatments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211131721.htm
American Chemical Society. "Picturing pain could help unlock its mysteries, improve treatments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211131721.htm (accessed July 29, 2015).

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