Science Daily reports that in an article in Nature (I really have to figure out if I can subscribe without breaking the bank) “have discovered a way to block a pain pathway in animal models of chronic neuropathic pain … (that) prevents or reverses pain that develops slowly from nerve damage without causing analgesic tolerance or intrinsic reward (unlike opioids).”
1st – how many ‘pain pathways’ are there in our heads anyway? This article at McGill describes how pain perception and pathways works. Alternatively you could check out this article at How Stuff Works.
2nd – WOW! I’ve known people who have suffered chronic pain that is so debilitating they basically have no life. And next to no friends because their pain colours their outlook and makes then ‘painful’ to be around. If I wasn’t managing my own sciatic issues with morning stretches I’d be uncomfortably aware of that by lunch time. And heading towards weeks of physical immobility if unchecked.
The idea that there might be real hope that doesn’t come with dependence and dopiness is almost too good to be true. Let’s hope it’s a gift without bad side effects.
Oh, and that pathway? It’s the A3AR pathway. Adenosine Receptors are found on the surfaces of cells throughout the body. There are more than one type, the one being used in this research is A3. Receptors are like little switches on the face of the cell wall. When the right chemical key mates with the receptor (in this case the key is Adenosine) it initiates a sequence of activity. Some receptors are part of the systems regulating things like oxygen uptake or calcium channel openings. Because of the interdependent operations of biological systems most components serve more than one role.
We’re learning more about A3’s function and interaction with the rest of the system as we go, hence advances like this one. Gotta love science.