A study conducted by a team of researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden claimed to have found a 'pain organ' under the skin.
“We call it the nociceptive glio-neural complex. It is not a very catchy name, but it explains its function and cellular structure,” study author Patrik Ernfors, a professor in the department of medical biochemistry and biophysics at the Karolinska Institute, told a news portal.
Researchers describe the organ as a meshlike network of Schwann cells with tentacle-like extensions. “We initially did not look for the possibility that there could be a new sensory organ in the skin, so this was a big surprise,” Ernfors told a news portal. Adding, “We were studying other questions using research tools that allowed us to see these cells, and realized in those studies that pain-detecting free nerves in the skin were not ‘free’ but covered with these specialized cells."
Ernfors further explained: “This led us to ask if they could have a function in pain detection, so we generated genetic models that allowed us to test this. And to our surprise, activating these glia cells led to a pain response."
The findings could help lead to a better understanding of chronic pain and pain related to chemotherapy. “Kudos to them and anybody else in labs studying pain physiology. Consumers need it,” Dr. David Copenhaver, the chief of the division of pain medicine at the University of California, Davis, told a news portal. Adding, “There’s a lot we don’t know. It’s what drove me into the field.”
Researchers say further research is needed to investigate this fascinating discovery. “We still don’t know how the Schwann cells of the sensory organ communicate with the nerve. We don’t know the exact proteins in the membrane that respond to mechanical pressure or stimuli and activate the cells," Ernfors told a news portal. Adding, “We hope that this discovery will be helpful in explaining the causes and mechanisms of some chronic pain disorders. If they are involved, this could aid in the development of new pain-relieving drugs."
The findings were originally published in the journal Science.
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