A groundbreaking study reveals that females may feel pain differently than males. This could lead to the development of his and hers pain medication.
Female mice have previously been excluded from scientific experiments due tot the fact that their menstrual cycle might lead to altered results. It seems that this fact might have held back important findings, at least in the development of pain medication.
A team of scientists from University of Alabama who have looked into the matter have discovered that the physiology pf pain in females is actually different from that of males.
The immune system plays a crucial role in the process of pain, as it intervenes in transporting the pain signals. The microglia is the key immune cell related to pain because when there is an inflammation in the body, the microglia displays a specialized protein called a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that is capable of signaling the pain to neurons in the spinal chord.
The BDNF comes up only when there is inflammation in the body and it leads to the pain sensation in the area that is affected, even if the stimuli are of low intensity.
The University of Alabama experiment was conducted on both male and female mice. In order to produce the chronic pain, the scientists severed a few branches of the sciatic nerve. Then, in the first phase of the study, all mice were given three types of medication that inhibits microglial activity, which turned out to be extremely helpful in the male mice, that were then pain-free, but not in the female mice though.
In the second phase of the study, the scientists used specialized male and female mice, who were genetically altered so that they could delete the gene responsible for the development of the BDNF protein at the time of their choice. Then, they produced the same sciatic nerve injuries to all the mice and then they proceeded to delete the BDNF gene.
It seems that this has led to complete pain relief in the male mice, but again not in the female mice. This fact demonstrated that the mechanism of pain is different in female mice than it is in males.
Taking into account that the structure of the mouse nervous system is similar to that of humans, this study might have revealed a key element in the development of more specialized pain management medication in the future that just might have different components for each gender.
Further research obviously needs to be conducted on this matter, but the discovery that the University of Alabama has brought about could change the face of pain management medication completely in the future, because his and hers drugs just might be the next step.
Image Source: telegraph.co.uk