A new study concluded that men and women process pain differently. Previously, microglia – immune cells of the nervous system – were believed to transmit pain signals in bother genders, but the new research suggests that this mechanism is true only for men.
The research conducted by a joint team from McGill University, Duke University and Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children (published in Nature Neuroscience this month) involve interfering with microglia functioning in male and female mice.
It found they could only block pain in male mice. The researchers now believe that T-cells – an entirely different kind of immune cell – maybe transmitting pain in women.
Interestingly, this information only came to light now because biomedical researchers experimented almost exclusively on male mice before. The NIH recently issued a a new protocol for making it compulsory to add female animals in preclinical study pools.
When it comes to studying nervous system responses to pain, it’s not far reaching to use mice to simulate biological responses in humans, according Michael Salter, a researcher at the Hospital for Sick Children and also a co-author of the study:
“We believe that mice have very similar nervous systems to humans,” said Salter in a statement, “especially for a basic evolutionary function like pain, so these findings tell us there are important questions raised for human pain drug development.”
This new research opens up a whole new avenue of pain medications. It will now to possible to go for targeted pain medication – particularly needed for women suffering from chronic pain.
It to be noted, however, as reported by National Health Interview Survey, 2009: “women more likely to experience pain (in the form of migraines, neck pain, lower back pain, or face or jaw pain) than men. Women were twice as likely to experience migraines or severe headaches, or pain in the face or jaw, than men.”