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Oxford researchers have discovered a gene that regulates pain sensitisation by amplifying pain signals within the spinal cord, helping them to understand an important mechanism underlying chronic pain in humans and providing a new treatment target.

Genomic sequences visualization graph

Chronic pain is a common issue affecting millions of people worldwide, but why some people are more prone to it and what factors lead to chronic pain are not fully understood.

It is well known that repeated stimulation, such as with a sharp pin prick, can lead to a heightened sensitivity to pain. This process is called ‘pain wind-up’ and contributes to clinical pain disorders.

In a two-part study, researchers from Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences firstly compared genetic variation in samples from over 1,000 participants from Colombia, to look for clues as to whether there were any genetic variants more common in people who experienced greater pain wind-up. They noted a significant difference in variants of one specific gene (the protein Sodium Calcium exchanger type-3, NCX3).

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website

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Global Health research at Oxford University and its partners is broad reaching, bringing significant impact across all academic disciplines of medicine, the physical and life sciences, social sciences and humanities. The Diagnostics in Tropical and Infectious Disease (DiTi) award aims to strengthen the long-term partnership between Oxford University and Mahidol University by establishing partnerships and supporting collaborative projects to develop diagnostic devices for tropical and infectious diseases, with the goal of driving more translational research initiatives in global health. Read this interview from award winner Dr Chris Chew.