Painfully smart mice
In September 1999, a paper in Nature reported that mice overexpressing the NR2B subunit of the NMDA receptor show enhanced learning and memory. However, it now seems that there is a price to pay for this improvement. A study by Min Zhuo and colleagues in this issue of Nature Neuroscience (Vol. 4, No. 2, 01 Feb 2001) shows that such transgenic mice also have an increased chronic response to painful stimuli. The transgenic mice have higher levels of NR2B protein than normal mice in several areas of the forebrain, including areas known to be involved in pain perception. The authors report that the transgenic mice show pronounced responses to chronic or prolonged painful stimuli, but are normal in their responses to acute painful stimuli. The distinction between chronic and acute pain is important clinically: an ideal treatment for chronic pain would leave the acute pain response intact so as not to disrupt the normal reflexes needed to avoid danger. The authors suggest that this receptor subunit may be an attractive target for the treatment of chronic pain.
Dr. Min Zhuo
Depts. of Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology
Washington University School of Medicine
Campus Box 8054
660 S. Euclid Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63110
tel: +1 314-747-0416
fax: +1 314-362-8571
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza