Washington D.C, Dec 5 : Genetically modified mice may reveal the secret to a painless life.
People born with a rare genetic mutation are unable to feel pain, but previous attempts to recreate this effect with drugs have had surprisingly little success. Using mice modified to carry the same mutation, UCL researchers have now discovered the recipe for painlessness.
‘Channels’ that allow messages to pass along nerve cell membranes are vital for electrical signalling in the nervous system. In 2006, it was shown that sodium channel Nav1.7 is particularly important for signalling in pain pathways and people born with non-functioning Nav1.7 do not feel pain. Drugs that block Nav1.7 have since been developed but they had disappointingly weak effects.
The new study reveals that mice and people who lack Nav1.7 also produce higher than normal levels of natural opioid peptides.
Senior author John Wood (UCL Medicine) said that the secret ingredient turned out to be good old-fashioned opioid peptides, and they have now filed a patent for combining low dose opioids with Nav1.7 blockers. This should replicate the painlessness experienced by people with rare mutations, and we have already successfully tested this approach in unmodified mice.
The study is published in Nature Communications. (ANI)