Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Naked mole-rats bare pain relief clues

17.11.2003


Credit: Thomas Park of UIC


East African naked mole-rats, the only known cold-blooded mammal, have shown a rather heated response in lab tests that may have important implications for treating chronic pain in humans.

The blind, furless creatures that live underground in colonies lack a body chemical called Substance P, a neurotransmitter normally in the skin that sends pain signals to the central nervous system. The rats feel no immediate pain when cut, scraped or subjected to heat stimuli. They only feel some aches. But when the rats get a shot of Substance P, pain signaling resumes working as in other mammals.

"It was a complete surprise when we discovered that the skin of naked mole-rats is missing one of the most basic chemicals that’s found in the skin of all other mammals," said Thomas Park, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the principal investigator in the research project.



Co-investigators include Christopher Comer, professor of biological sciences, Ying Lu, assistant professor of anesthesiology and Charles Laurito, professor of anesthesiology -- all at UIC -- along with pharmacologists Frank Rice of the Albany Medical College in Albany, N.Y. and Steven Wilson, of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.

The findings were reported in a presentation by Lu Nov.8 in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Some medical researchers believe an excess of Substance P causes the human condition fibromyalgia, where patients suffer from chronic pain in soft fibrous body tissue such as muscles, ligaments and tendons. Theoretically, reducing or eliminating Substance P in affected areas could ease the pain. Experiments using naked mole-rats may help test this hypothesis and perhaps lead to new therapies.

"After we discovered that naked mole-rats naturally lacked Substance P, we realized that we had a unique situation whereby we could try to re-introduce this chemical to better understand its role in pain signaling," said Park.

A virus was applied to the feet of the rats to transport DNA that codes for Substance P through nerve endings on the skin. The virus then migrated over a period of a few days to nerve cells near the spinal cord where the DNA produced Substance P.

Each foot used was then anesthetized and held close to an uncomfortably warm -- but not damaging -- lamp to activate nerve fibers associated with Substance P but not other types of nerve fibers. The rats’ feet treated with Substance P quickly recoiled. Those not treated also withdrew from the lamp, but much more slowly.

A key unanswered question is why naked mole-rats evolved over perhaps millions of years to have no Substance P in their skin and became oblivious to normal pain stimuli.

One possible explanation is that because these curious creatures have had to cope with high levels of carbon dioxide in their crowded underground tunnel colonies -- a condition that normally would cause the type of pain associated with Substance P in mucous membranes throughout the animals’ bodies -- they have become insensitive to the pain.

Another possibility involves Substance P and blood vessel dilation in the skin -- to cool the body surface. In cold-blooded naked mole-rats, however, dilation would cause them to dangerously overheat, so they may have evolved to eliminate Substance P from their skin.

"We were surprised by how dramatic the results were," said Park. "We expected Substance P could restore some sensitivity to painful stimuli, but it was a real surprise that this single chemical could make the naked mole-rats behave just like other mammals."

Further experiments are planned with the rats to investigate how other pain systems work in the absence of Substance P.


Funding for the research was provided by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Paul Francuch | UIC
Further information:
http://www.uic.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells
22.08.2017 | National University Health System

nachricht Biochemical 'fingerprints' reveal diabetes progression
22.08.2017 | Umea University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>