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BOB HIRSHON (host):
Short-circuiting pain signals. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
While acute pain keeps people from hurting themselves, chronic pain torments people for no useful purpose. At the University of Calgary, researcher Gerald Zamponi and his colleagues have discovered a key step in pain’s path to the brain, and are now looking for ways to interrupt that path. In the journal Neuron, they describe an enzyme that boosts levels of a pain-stimulating proteins.
And increases their lifetime in the cell membrane, so there’s more of them there. So every protein goes to the cell membrane, stays there for a little bit, and at some point gets recycled. But this particular mechanism keeps them there longer. So you have more them. When you have more of them, you have more pain signaling.
They’ve now screening over 100,000 potential compounds to block that enzyme. So far, they’ve found two that show promise. The goal is targeted pain reduction, with little effect on the rest of the nervous system. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.