Scientists at the University of California, Davis, report in a news release from the university that they have discovered a key mechanism behind neuropathic pain.

The biological process is called endoplasmic reticulum stress, or ER stress, note lead researchers Bora Inceoglu from the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Ahmed Bettaieb from the Department of Nutrition.

Their study was published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, per the release.

According to the release, the discovery may benefit patients who experience chronic pain from trauma, diabetes, shingles, multiple sclerosis, or other conditions that cause nerve damage.

“This is a fundamental discovery that opens new ways to control chronic pain,” says co-author Bruce Hammock, professor at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, in the release.

“We can now specifically search for agents to control ER stress and its downstream pathways,” Hammock continues in the release. “This search is already under way in a number of laboratories working on cancer and other diseases.”

Bettaieb, working with professor Fawaz Haj in the Department of Nutrition, found that key molecular signatures associated with diabetes and diabetic pain were linked to ER stress. Neuropathic pain is a common consequence of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, affecting up to 70% of patients, the release explains.

Inceoglu, working with Professor Hammock, showed that neuropathic pain could be initiated by compounds that cause ER stress and reversed by agents that block it, per the release.

According to the release, the researchers had previously shown that a class of natural bioactive lipids are broken down in the body by an enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase. They were able to show that blocking this enzyme blocks ER stress and the associated neuropathic pain.

Inceoglu suggests in the release that the work could shed new light onto at least one biological process that mediates neuropathic pain. This knowledge may enable researchers to test ER stress-blocking drugs in the clinic, and carry out fundamental research on how different types of pain grouped under the name “neuropathic” differ from one another and respond to new drugs, the release explains.

[Source: UC Davis]