People who suffer from chronic pain may one day find relief from medications typically used for the treatment of high blood pressure, according to a new study.
Scientists studying genetic variation in relation to pain sensitivity made the discovery which was published online in PLoS Genetics, an international journal.
An article in redOrbit writes that findings are the result of a joint effort study between several researchers. Among those involved were experts at King’s College London, genomics research firm BGI, and pharmaceutical company Pfizer.
The research was conducted in an effort to gain insight into possible treatments for chronic pain, classified as “discomfort or agony” that is present in the sufferer for a minimum period of six months. A statement by researchers says:
“Chronic pain is a significant personal and socio-economic burden, with nearly one in five people experiencing it at some time during their lives. Current pain treatments have either limited efficacy or significant side effects for many patients. It is urgent for researchers to study the genetic mechanisms of pain for developing new approaches to pain relief.”
Medindia reports that the study was conducted using 2,500 volunteer subjects. Researchers placed a heated probe on the arms of participants who were instructed to press a button as the heat reached an uncomfortable level. The scientists used this information to determine each participant’s particular pain threshold.
DNA samples were then taken from 200 subjects with the highest pain sensitivity and 200 from those with the lowest threshold. Performing exome sequencing on the DNA allowed researchers to see “significant different patterns of rare variants on 138 genes including the gene GZMM” between both subject groups.
Researchers found a substantial enrichment of these genes on the angiotensin pathway. As a peptide hormone, Angiotensin II is involved in controlling blood pressure. Study findings indicate that the pathway is an important factor in human pain regulation.
Researchers concluded that genetic variation in the angiotensin pathway may have an effect on pain sensitivity. This means that medications currently used to regulate blood pressure may eventually be a helpful and safe alternative to controlling chronic pain.
While additional human testing will be needed, the study provides hope that simple blood pressure drugs may one day serve to treat those afflicted with chronic pain.