This week, two groups (Nature, Vol. 407, No. 6807, 26 October 2000) describe experiments that mark a milestone in our understanding of how animals feel pain. Mice missing a chemical receptor molecule called ‘P2X3’ seem to feel less pain in certain situations. Furthermore, the results could help develop therapies against human conditions such as overactive bladder disorder.
Debra Cockayne of Roche Bioscience, Palo Alto, California and colleagues (pp. 1011-1015) find that genetic ‘knockout’ mice incapable of producing P2X3 lick painful paws less often. This is because the chemical ‘ATP’ that normally binds to the P2X3 receptor to cause pain can no longer do so. In addition, the mice urinate less frequently because full bladders also produce the chemical ‘ATP’ that binds the same receptor.
The second research team, led by John Wood of University College London, UK (pp. 1015-1017) also see reduced painful paw-licking in P2X3 knockout mice. But they find that skin inflammation pain is aggravated — a note of caution over possible pain treatments that target the receptor molecule. Curiously, the team also discovers the mice cannot sense mild skin warming.
Sean Cook and Edwin McCleskey of Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, discuss this research in an accompanying News and Views article (pp. 951-952).
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(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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