KU Leuven researchers discover new cause of pain
Researchers at KU Leuven have discovered that not only nerves but the cell walls around them can cause pain, which could lead to new therapies
Discovery could lead to development of new painkillers
In the cell walls around nerves that detect pain, exist so-called ion channels that open if we experience stimuli like extreme cold or heat. An electric signal then goes to the brain, and we perceive pain.
The scientists found that pain can also be felt if an ion channel remains closed and that some medicines cause an increase in pain. A shortcut makes the electric signal deviate from its normal route through a pore in the ion channel, finding its way in the surrounding material instead. This electric “leak” stimulates the pain nerves even more.
The researchers think this explains side-effects of medicine like clotrimazole, an often-used treatment against fungal infections that regularly leads to skin irritation. They also discovered that the shortcut only arises in patients with low hormone levels.
University of Leuven
staff members in 2013
students in 2014-2015 academic year
million euros in annual research budget