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Serotonin perpetuates chronic pain signals

Setting the stage for possible advances in pain treatment, researchers at The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland report they have pinpointed two molecules involved in perpetuating chronic pain in mice. The molecules, they say, also appear to have a role in the phenomenon that causes uninjured areas of the body to be more sensitive to pain when an area nearby has been hurt. A summary of the research was published in the journal Neuron.

“With the identification of these molecules, we have some additional targets that we can try to block to decrease chronic pain,” says Xinzhong Dong, Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an early career scientist at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “We found that persistent pain doesn’t always originate in the brain, as some had believed, which is important information for designing less addictive drugs to fight it.”

Chronic pain that persists for weeks, months or years after an underlying injury or condition is resolved afflicts an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the population worldwide and about 116 million people in the U.S., costing Americans a total of $600 billion in medical interventions and lost productivity. It can be caused by everything from nerve injuries and osteoarthritis to cancer and stress.

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