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Cell's 'Pain Switch' a Target for New Drugs

In mice, changes in a nerve cell receptor eased discomfort

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 17, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Drugs that target a cellular 'pain switch' might someday ease the suffering of patients with chronic, inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, according to a study in mice.

Scientists reporting in the current issue of Neuron say they altered specific nerve cell receptors, called AMPA, to trigger chronic inflammatory pain. AMPA receptors are protein switches in nerve cell membranes that, when turned on, cause either short- or long-term changes within the cells.

In this study, the researchers genetically altered mice to lack either GluR-A or GluR-B, compounds key to proper AMPA receptor function.

They then induced artificial inflammation in the paws of the two genetically altered mice, and in normal mice.

According to the researchers, the presence or absence of functioning GluR-A or Glu-B brought about significant changes in the animals' sensitivity to heat or pressure directed at their inflamed paws.

The findings suggest that AMPA receptors could be an important new target for the development of drugs that prevent and treat chronic inflammatory pain, the researchers concluded.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation has more about inflammation.

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Nov. 17, 2004
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