Gene Responsible for Sensing Mechanical Pain Identified

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Reza Sharif Naeini, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Physiology & Cell Information Systems Group
McGill University
Life Sciences Complex (Bellini),
Montréal, Québec

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: My lab is interested in understanding how our bodies detect signals from the environment, like our sense of touch and pain. This process is done by specialized sensors we have that detect mechanical stimuli, ranging from a hair deflecting under the wind, a gentle stroke, or a pinch. These sensors are called mechanosensitive ion channels and they convert mechanical forces into electrical signals that our nervous system can understand.

Their existence was first proposed in 1950 (to my knowledge) by Bernard Katz, and in 1999, researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, led by Dr. Jon Levine, demonstrated that pain-sensing neurons (termed nociceptors) express these channels. But their molecular identity remained elusive.

In 2010, the group of Dr. Ardem Patapoutian discovered the genes Piezo1 and Piezo2, with the latter being essential for our sense of touch and proprioception. While these findings were transformative to the field of somatosensation, mice lacking these genes were still able to respond to painful mechanical stimuli.

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Three Genes Linked To Chronic Back Pain

PainRelief.com Interview with:
"Back Pain" by betterhealthosteopathy is licensed under CC PDM 3.0cDr. Frances MK Williams PhD

Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology
Division of Genetics & Molecular Medicine
Reader, King’s College London
Honorary Consultant in Rheumatology
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: This study was led by scientists at King’s College London and the University of Washington. It has identified three new genes associated with the development of chronic back pain.

The findings, which are published in PLOS Genetics, could pave the way for the creation of more effective treatments for the condition, the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Part funded by the European Union, the research project focussed on understanding why in most people an episode of back pain gets better, while in around 20% of people it can persist for many months – chronic back pain is defined as pain that persists for more than three months.

To better understand the origins of the chronic condition, researchers conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis (GWAS) of chronic back pain studies comprising a total of 440,000 individuals. The average age of the study’s participants ranged from 50 to 76 years, and the genders were approximately balanced.  Continue reading