CogniFit's Science blog: New Understanding Of Neuroscience And Chronic Pain Makes Way

New Understanding Of Neuroscience And Chronic Pain Makes Way

Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain that millions of people worldwide are all too familiar with. It is something very common in the world of neuroscience and is triggered by nerve damage. For a long time how the pain persisted has been a mystery. Treatment options have been quite ineffective up to now. But new findings could forever change the way people look at this chronic pain.

The Scripps Research Institute is being credited for a new approach that has brought light to a major clue to the problem. Through an approach known as metabolomics, scientists found that dimethylsphingosine is produced at abnormally high levels in the spinal cords of rats who have neuropathic pain. When injected, the pain onsets thus suggesting inhibiting this molecule can be a target for drug development.

These findings are huge for neuroscience as it drastically displays the power of metabolomics. For a long time scientists have focused on understand what makes diseased cells different from healthy cells looking at differences in levels of gene expression. This new light will have scientists focusing in on the differences in the levels of small-molecule metabolites like sugars, vitamins and amino acids.

Metabolomics has consistently been used to find biochemical markers of diseases. With this particular case, the research team centered on applying metabolomic analysis in order to understand the biochemical basis of the neuropathic pain condition. The goal was to find potential therapeutic targets.

With this neuroscience study, cognitive science and scientists found almost all the major abnormalities in metabolite levers were present in the tissue from the dorsal horn region of the spinal cord as oppose to the blood plasma or injured leg nerve fiber.

They then set up a test to see which of the abnormally altered metabolites in dorsal horn tissue could show signs of pain in rat spinal cord tissue. The one vivid point was a small molecule that didn’t appear in any metabolome database. This was identified as DMS, which is a major building block for the insulating sheaths of nerve fibers. As this was injected into healthy rats at a rate similar to that found in the nerve-injured rats, it induced pain.

So what exactly does this neuroscience research show? It identifies that DMS causes pain at least to some degree by stimulating the release of pro-inflammatory molecules from neuron-supporting cells. The team will now focus on testing inhibitors of DMS production that can potentially act as effective treatments or preventives of neuropathic pain for people.