Key link between brain molecule and pain found

March 13th, 2008 - 1:36 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 13 (IANS) Researchers have identified a key link between pain and a brain molecule that offers new insights into fibromyalgia, a baffling chronic pain condition. Researchers found that in fibromyalgia, pain levels decreased when levels of the brain molecule called glutamate went down. Their findings, which appear in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, could prompt better drugs to treat the condition.

“If these findings are replicated, investigators performing clinical treatment trials could potentially use glutamate as a ’surrogate’ marker of disease response,” Sciencedaily quoted co-author Richard E. Harris, of University of Michigan, as saying.

The molecule glutamate is a neurotransmitter, conveying information between neurons in the nervous system. When glutamate is released from one neuron, it diffuses across the space between cells, and then binds to receptors on the next neuron in line and causes the cell to become excited, or to be more active.

This molecule was suspected to play a role in fibromyalgia because previous studies had shown that some brain regions in patients appear to be highly excited. One such region is the insula.

To gauge linkage between pain and glutamate, researchers used a non-invasive brain imaging technique called proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H-MRS). H-MRS was performed once before and once following a four-week course of acupuncture or “sham” acupuncture.

Researchers used either acupuncture or sham acupuncture to reduce pain symptoms. The sham procedure involved using a sharp device to prick the skin in order to mimic real acupuncture sensations.

Following the four weeks of treatment, both clinical and experimental pain reported was reduced significantly.

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