A groundbreaking study has shown that men and women feel pain differently

Although it has been known for some time that pain is different between men and women, most research on the subject was done using rodents (mainly males).

A groundbreaking study has shown that men and women feel pain differently

Although it has been known for some time that pain is different between men and women, most research on the subject was done using rodents (mainly males). The journal BRAIN published a new study that used male and female spinal cord tissue from rats. However, it also included human spinal cord tissue donated by the families of deceased people. It concluded that spinal cord neurons are different in signaling pain in women than men.

This could be due to a protein called BDNF that is involved in neuronal development. It could amplify pain signals from the spine cord in males but not females. All evidence points to a hormonal link, as the pain processing differences in the male and female rats disappeared when their ovaries were removed.

Pain inhibition

The protein involved in neuronal development, BDNF, seems to be the one responsible for spinal cord neurons expressing pain differently in men and women. All evidence points to hormonal causes.

Protein

BDNF

Pain attenuation can be caused by ovarian inhibition of BDNF proteins

Ovaries are not required for reproduction.

The painful action of the BDNF-protein.

Pain inhibition

The protein involved in neuronal development, BDNF, seems to be the one responsible for spinal cord neurons expressing pain differently in men and women. All evidence points to hormonal causes.

Protein

BDNF

Pain attenuation can be caused by ovarian inhibition of BDNF proteins

Ovaries are not required for reproduction.

The painful action of the BDNF-protein.

This is the first time that a sex-related variation in pain signaling in spinal cord tissue has been found. Future studies will be needed to determine how this biological difference might contribute to pain sensation differences. Annemarie Dedek is the lead author of the study. She says that the discovery "lays the foundation for new, better, and more personalized treatments to assist those suffering from chronic pain."

The researcher adds that "creating new analgesics requires detailed understanding how pain is processed at the biological level." This is especially important in light of the opioid epidemic in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the data shows the severity of the problem: "Between 1999 and 2019, nearly 500,000 people died from overdoses related to opioids, whether prescribed by doctors or illegally." A staggering 136 people were killed each day by opioid overdoses in 2019, which accounts for more than 70% of all drug overdose deaths. It was like a medium-sized plane had crashed in every country.

According to the Ministry of Health, one in six Spanish suffers from chronic pain (17%). This is a condition that affects more than eight million people. One in ten (or almost a million) of these people have mobility issues or limitations that limit their daily life. It is interesting to see that more research is being done on chronic pain. We can achieve equality in therapeutic strategies by identifying the cause of the pain differences between men and women. Today's drugs have common targets, but this research opens up new avenues to distinguish specific drugs for each sexe." Minerva Navarr, a physical doctor and rehabilitation specialist in the Chronic Pain Unit at the Las Palmas hospital Doctor Negrin, and member of The Spanish Pain Society (SED), says that while existing drugs are effective, they do not target the same gender.

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