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Cambridge Scientists Discover Gene That Regulates

Researchers from Cambridge University’s pharmacology department have discovered a genetic material known as HCN2 that regulates chronic pain. They hope this finding can help pharmaceutical companies in developing more effective painkillers against neuropathic pain—a condition that is associated with nerve damage.

The study’s lead author, Peter McNaughton, has this to say: “Individuals suffering from neuropathic pain often have little or no respite because of the lack of effective medications.”

“Our research lays the groundwork for the development of new drugs to treat chronic pain by blocking HCN2,” Mr. McNaughton added.

In the past, scientists have already been acquainted with the HCN2 gene, which is situated in pain-sensitive nerve endings. However, they have yet to explore HCN2’s role in regulating pain. Mr. McNaughton and his colleagues suspected that HCN2 regulates electrical activity in pain-sensitive nerve endings.

Using genetically modified mice, the researchers removed the HCN2 gene from its nerve endings. Thereafter, they tested the mice’s reaction speed after they were exposed to painful stimuli. Based on results, the researchers deduced that taking away the HCN2 gene from the nerve endings minimized neuropathic pain.

Even if they removed the HCN2 gene, the researchers found out that this did not affect the body’s response to normal acute pain—a factor that they deemed very important since this serves as a warning signal.

“What is exciting about the work on the HCN2 gene is that removing it—or blocking it pharmacologically—eliminates neuropathic pain without affecting normal acute pain,” Mr. McNaughton stated. “This finding could be very valuable clinically because normal pain sensation is essential for avoiding accidental damage.”

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