Oxford researchers have discovered a gene that regulates pain sensitisation by amplifying pain signals within the spinal cord, helping them to understand an important mechanism underlying chronic pain in humans and providing a new treatment target.
Chronic pain is a common issue affecting millions of people worldwide, but why some people are more prone to it and what factors lead to chronic pain are not fully understood.
It is well known that repeated stimulation, such as with a sharp pin prick, can lead to a heightened sensitivity to pain. This process is called ‘pain wind-up’ and contributes to clinical pain disorders.
In a two-part study, researchers from Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences firstly compared genetic variation in samples from over 1,000 participants from Colombia, to look for clues as to whether there were any genetic variants more common in people who experienced greater pain wind-up. They noted a significant difference in variants of one specific gene (the protein Sodium Calcium exchanger type-3, NCX3).