Study implicates metabolites in chronic pain

Imagine that you are in pain all the time. Not just an ordinary "ouch" type of pain, but burning, tingling, freezing pain, with numbness and itching. That's how neuropathic pain can be. And sometimes nothing you take can alleviate it--only around 40% to 60% of people with neuropathic pain find even partial relief. By locating a potential biomarker for this type of pain, researchers could perhaps unlock a route to an effective treatment, which was described as an unmet medical need to The Scientist by Gary Patti, an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis and lead author of the study. This research, carried out in rats, used metabolomics (the study of all the metabolic processes in the cell) and found that one of the pathways involved in sphingomyelin-ceramide metabolism was altered in rats with neuropathic pain, and increased levels of the metabolite from this pathway also increased sensitivity to pain. The results of the study are published in Nature Chemical Biology. Article | Abstract