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Research uncovers promising target to treat chronic abdominal pain
Date:3/2/2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio High levels of a protein linked to the way pain signals are sent to the brain led to a decrease in abdominal pain in a recent study in mice.

Researchers say the finding suggests the protein might someday serve as the basis of new treatments for chronic pain associated with a number of bowel disorders.

The scientists at Ohio State University found that nearly twice the normal amount of this protein, called EAAT2, or excitatory amino acid transporter 2, decreased what is called visceral pain, or pain from internal organs, in mice.

The protein acts on glutamate, an amino acid and neurotransmitter that sends signals to the brain that produce pain. The researchers found that a high level of EAAT2 appears to force glutamate into cells, preventing it from interacting with receptors that enable it to send the pain signals.

Though the researchers understand what EAAT2 does, there is still more to learn about the location of its activity and the complete mechanism behind the protein's role. But they are hopeful about the protein's potential to treat the pain caused by a variety of gastrointestinal disorders suffered by millions of Americans.

The most common condition is irritable bowel syndrome, a disorder characterized by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Experts estimate IBS affects between 10 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population.

Visceral pain in bowel disorders is often difficult to treat because there is no clear structural problem or disease process to remedy, said Robert Stephens, associate professor of physiology and cell biology at Ohio State and senior author of the study.

"The question is, why does this unexplained pain exist? Pain usually signals something is wrong. But this functional pain is chronic pain without a reason. It is pain that makes people miss work and it's pain that is associated with depression. That's why we really want to g
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Contact: Robert Stephens
Stephens.6@osu.edu
614-292-4706
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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