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Genetic Mechanism Helps Explain Chronic Pain Disorders

ly influences pain sensitivity in humans.

These findings are clinically important because pain conditions resulting from low COMT activity or elevated catecholamine levels are likely to be susceptible to treatment with pharmacological agents that block beta 2- and beta 3-adrenergic receptors, which mediate COMT-dependent pain signaling, or that control mRNA secondary structure.

"Elucidating the genetic mechanisms that mediate pain perception will provide new insights into how chronic pain develops and will ultimately contribute to the identification of unique markers for diagnosing clinical pain conditions, as well as provide novel targets for the development of effective individualized therapeutics for TMJD and related conditions," said Dr. Andrea Nackley Neely, a research assistant professor in the Center for Neurosensory Disorders and the study's lead author.

"These data have broad medical and evolutionary implications regarding the analysis of variants common in the human population," Nackley Neely said. "It is believed that variants leading to altered protein structure have the strongest impact on gene function. However, this study demonstrates that combinations of common genetic variants that influence mRNA secondary structure may have even stronger effects and, thus, represent another key factor responsible for disease onset and progression."

"This study provides additional evidence of a genetic, molecular and physiological basis for pain perception and human pain conditions and should help to remove the stigma associated with conditions such as TMJD and fibromyalgia," said Dr. Luda Diatchenko, an associate professor in the center and the study's chief investigator.

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