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Stanford scientists are exploring the possibility of controlling the pain ordinary light
The scientific staff of the Stanford laboratory Bio-X, studying the potentially breakthrough discoveries relating to the human body and disease by gene therapy modified organism laboratory mice so that their sensitivity to pain began to change due to exposure to light them.
Such a method is called neuromodulation optogenetics and involves the introduction into the body, or rather in the nerve cells of the mouse, the light-sensitive protein opsin. Studies have shown that after such manipulation to pain sensitivity of mice exposed to the same color of light can be increased, and under another – on the contrary decrease.
Due to these experiments, the researchers want to better understand what pain is and why it occurs, or in other words – the processes and mechanisms of the body, contributing to its occurrence. In addition, the researchers hope to determine why some people experience pain or vice versa stronger weaker than others. All this may eventually lead to a better understanding of how to help people suffering from various types of pain, especially those who are experiencing all sorts of chronic pain.
“Modification” mice began with the fact that nerve cells that have previously been genetically altered so as to contain the opsin-producing DNA, scientists introduced a special virus. Several weeks later, the researchers found that only the nerves that are responsible for pain, took the protein opsin. As a result of these nerves were able to alter the pain threshold depending on what color of light impinges on them.
“This discovery shows the enormous potential opportunities developing methods to help the millions of people suffering from pain caused by damage to their nerve endings,” – says Linda Porter, a consultant on the treatment of chronic pain at the National Institute for the Study of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the head of NIH Pain Consortium at Stanford University.
“Now, if there is the possibility of changing the threshold of pain, scientists can conduct research faster new medication aimed to repay these pains. Who knows, maybe one day, doctors can cure or at least reduce the pain various processes by light therapy. ”
To date, scientists have developed several types of protein opsin, react differently to different colors of light. The use of viruses to deliver specific opsin in nerve cells makes it easier to carry out necessary research and tests.
“Since we are using a viral delivery technique opsin in nerves, then this method will in future allow faster testing some opsins and move on to other,” – says study leader Keith Montgomery.
Developmental biologists originally used to activate certain parts of the brain to learn more about their functions. In previous studies, the researchers used when developmental biologists to control muscle nerves, scientists noticed that opsins accidentally fall into the nerves responsible for pain. It is this observation has prompted researchers to examine the possibility of control of pain sensitivity.
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Tags: Pain , Genetic Engineering , Man .
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