More than 50 million Americans live with chronic pain, according to a 2012 national survey (American Pain Society
). While some people find solace in acupuncture or pain medication, millions of people suffering from chronic pain don’t find alleviation. In the search for an effective treatment, scientists from McGill University decided to investigate the impact of chronic pain on the immune system.
Co-author Laura Stone and her team of researchers looked at rats with chronic pain, examining the DNA from both their brains and white blood cells. In humans, chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for at least six months. The McGill study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
"We were surprised by the sheer number of genes that were marked by the chronic pain; hundreds to thousands of different genes were changed," said McGill professor Moshe Szyf. "We can now consider the implications that chronic pain might have on other systems in the body that we don't normally associate with pain."
In addition to current treatments for chronic pain like acupuncture, medication, electrical stimulation, and even surgery, targeting the genes appearing as “marked” by chronic pain in this study could yield a new therapy for chronic pain (NIH
Source: McGill University