Gene Linked to Chronic Pain

British researchers have dis­cov­ered a gene in mice that codes for a pro­tein relat­ed to the expe­ri­ence of chron­ic pain.

They’ve genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered a strain of mice lack­ing a gene called HCN2.  Nor­mal mice who have the HCN2 gene pro­duce a pro­tein that forms a chan­nel that allows cer­tain mol­e­cules into and out of cells, mak­ing the cells more excitable.

The sci­en­tists think they’re on to some­thing impor­tant.  Mice lack­ing the HCN2 gene (and the pro­tein it codes for) respond nor­mal­ly to short-act­ing painful stim­uli (like an elec­tric shock or pin prick) but don’t devel­op chron­ic nerve pain (called neu­ro­path­ic pain).

Sci­en­tists are excit­ed to try to devel­op nov­el drugs that tar­get the action of HCN2 and its pro­tein prod­uct.  If they can find a way to make this idea work, it will rep­re­sent a brand new avenue to attack chron­ic pain. Instead of try­ing to wipe out all pain (the way that opi­ates do), this new method would leave patients with a nor­mal acute pain response, but pre­sum­ably block acute pain from meta­mor­phos­ing into chron­ic pain.

Will It Work?

I’m typ­i­cal­ly skep­ti­cal of this type of “mag­i­cal genet­ic think­ing” – the idea that there’s a spe­cif­ic evil gene pre­dis­pos­ing us to par­tic­u­lar prob­lems.  Or that pour­ing a new chem­i­cal into the soup of the body’s cel­lu­lar machin­ery will effec­tive­ly treat a prob­lem as mul­ti-dimen­sion­al and com­plex as chron­ic pain.

On the oth­er hand….

Chron­ic pain is a seri­ous, seri­ous prob­lem for mil­lions.  If they can come up with some­thing that helps, I’m all for it.  I’d love to have to admit in ret­ro­spect that my atti­tude is too neg­a­tive.

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 Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

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About Aaron Bynen

Aaron is a health conscious individual living in the Pacific Northwest.

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