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Putting the brakes on pain
Date:8/5/2013

Neuropathic pain pain that results from a malfunction in the nervous system is a daily reality for millions of Americans. Unlike normal pain, it doesn't go away after the stimulus that provoked it ends, and it also behaves in a variety of other unusual and disturbing ways. Someone suffering from neuropathic pain might experience intense discomfort from a light touch, for example, or feel as though he or she were freezing in response to a slight change in temperature.

A major part of the answer to the problem of neuropathic pain, scientists believe, is found in spinal nerve cells that release a signaling chemical known as GABA. These GABA neurons act as a sort of brake on pain impulses; it's thought that when they die or are disabled the pain system goes out of control. If GABA neurons could be kept alive and healthy after peripheral nerve or tissue injury, it's possible that neuropathic pain could be averted.

Now, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers have found a way to, at least partially, accomplish this objective. The key, they determined, is stemming the biochemical assault by reactive oxygen species that are generated in the wake of nerve injury.

"GABA neurons are particularly susceptible to oxidative stress, and we hypothesized that reactive oxygen species contribute to neuropathic sensitization by promoting the loss of GABA neurons as well as hindering GABA functions," said UTMB professor Jin Mo Chung, senior author of a paper on the research now online in the journal Pain.

To test this hypothesis and determine whether GABA neurons could be saved the researchers conducted a series of experiments in mice that had been surgically altered to simulate the conditions of neuropathic pain. In one key experiment, mice treated with an antioxidant compound for a week after surgery were compared with untreated mice. The antioxidant mice showed less pain-associated behavior and were found to have
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Contact: Jim Kelly
jpkelly@utmb.edu
409-772-8791
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Source:Eurekalert

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