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The Burden of Chronic Pain

Important Importins: Regulating Nerve Cell Messaging

Newswise —The burden of chronic pain includes damage to mental and physical health, lower productivity, and drug addiction. Now, a study led by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science suggests an original approach to treating this affliction by targeting a key gateway – one that leads to the activation of genes in the peripheral nerve cells that are involved in many forms of chronic pain. The findings of this study were published in Science.

…investigates molecules that regulate the messaging activities taking place within these nerve cells. These molecules – importins – are found in every cell, acting as conduits between the cell nucleus and its cytoplasm, shuttling molecules in and out of the nucleus and thus controlling access to the genes.

This role takes on special significance in the peripheral nerve cells, which have long, thin bodies where molecular messages can take hours to get from nerve endings to cell nuclei. Some of the importins Prof. Fainzilber and his team have identified, for example, relay messages about injury to the body of the nerve cell, initiating repair mechanisms.

“We are now in a position to conduct screens for new and better drug molecules that can precisely target this chain of events in the sensory neurons,” says Prof. Fainzilber. “Such targeted molecules might have fewer side effects and be less addictive than current treatments, and they could provide new options for reducing the burden of chronic pain.”


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