Valuable tool for predicting pain genes in people

Scientists in Australia and Austria have described a "network map" of genes involved in pain perception. The work, published in the journal PLOS Genetics should help identify new analgesic drugs.

Dr Greg Neely from the Garvan institute of Medical Research in Sydney and Professor Josef Penninger from the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna had previously screened the 14,000 genes in the fruit fly genome and identified 580 genes associated with heat perception. In the current study, using a database from the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information, they noted roughly 400 equivalent genes in people, 35% of which are already suspected to be pain genes.

The map they constructed using fly and human data includes many known genes, as well as hundreds of new genes and pathways, and demonstrates exceptional evolutionary conservation of across species. This should not be surprising, as every creature must be able to identify a source of pain or danger in order to survive.

Comparing fly with human data, they could see that a particular kind of molecular signaling (phospholipid signaling), already implicated in pain processing, appeared in the pain network. Further, they demonstrated the importance of two enzymes that make phospholipids, by removing those enzymes from mice, making them hypersensitive to heat pain.

"Pain affects hundreds of millions of people, and is a research field badly in need of new approaches and discoveries," said Dr Neely.

"The fact that evolution has done such a remarkable job of conserving pain across species makes our fly data very useful, because much of it translates to rodents and people.

"We are able to test our hypotheses in mice, and if a gene or pathway or process functions as we predict, there is a good chance it will also apply to people.

"By cross-referencing fly data with human information already in the public domain – like or genetic association studies – we know we'll be able to pinpoint new therapeutic targets."

More information: PLOS Genetics. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003071

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fruit flies lead scientists to new human pain gene

Nov 11, 2010

While it has become clear in recent years that susceptibility to pain has a strong inherited component, very little is known about actual "pain genes" and how they work. In the November 12th issue of Cell, researchers at Chi ...

DREAM: One gene regulates pain, learning and memory

Jan 15, 2009

The DREAM-gene which is crucial in regulating pain perception seems to also influence learning and memory. This is the result of studies carried out by researchers in Seville, Spain, and Vienna, Austria. The new findings ...

Recommended for you

Schizophrenia's genetic architecture revealed (w/ Video)

10 minutes ago

Queensland scientists are closer to effective treatments for schizophrenia after uncovering dozens of sites across the human genome that are strongly associated with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia.

Mysterious esophagus disease is autoimmune after all

17 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Achalasia is a rare disease – it affects 1 in 100,000 people – characterized by a loss of nerve cells in the esophageal wall. While its cause remains unknown, a new study by a team of researchers at ...

Diagnostic criteria for Christianson Syndrome

Jul 21, 2014

Because the severe autism-like condition Christianson Syndrome was only first reported in 1999 and some symptoms take more than a decade to appear, families and doctors urgently need fundamental information ...

New technique maps life's effects on our DNA

Jul 20, 2014

Researchers at the BBSRC-funded Babraham Institute, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Single Cell Genomics Centre, have developed a powerful new single-cell technique to help investigate how the environment ...

User comments