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 Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood
23.02.2017 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA eyes Pineapple Express soaking California

24.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

New gene for atrazine resistance identified in waterhemp

24.02.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

New Mechanisms of Gene Inactivation may prevent Aging and Cancer

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>