Authors: Alice Weatherston
A new study by researchers at McGill University (QC, Canada) has revealed that chronic pain may play a key role in ‘reprogramming’ the functioning of genes within the immune system. The findings were published recently in Scientific Reports.
Despite chronic pain making up one of the most common causes of disability worldwide, efforts to identify therapeutic strategies for the condition have so far proven unsuccessful.
The research team in the current study examined DNA from the brain and white blood cells of rats using methyl marks. “Methyl marks are important for regulating how these genes function,” explained co-author Laura Stone (McGill University).
The team discovered that chronic pain alters the way DNA is marked at an epigenetic level in both the brain and in the T cells of the animals.
“We were surprised by the sheer number of genes that were marked by the chronic pain — hundreds to thousands of different genes were changed,” commented Moshe Szyf (McGill University). “Our findings highlight the devastating impact of chronic pain on other important parts of the body such as the immune system” added Szyf.
“We can now consider the implications that chronic pain might have on other systems in the body that we don’t normally associate with pain,” continued Szyf. The team hope to identify new opportunities for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain in humans, utilizing the genetic markers of chronic pain as targets for novel medications.
Source: McGill University press release