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

Researchers of the medicine faculty at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) have found that pain is not just caused by a stimulation of pain nerves but also by an internal shortcut in these nerves. This discovery could contribute to the 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.

KU Leuven researchers discover new cause of pain

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University of Leuven

Established almost six centuries ago, the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) is one of the oldest universities in the Low Countries. International rankings consistently place it among the best universities in Europe.
Papal founding - It was founded as a Catholic university by Pope Martin V in 1425.
Bright minds - Over the centuries, it attracted famous scholars like Justus Lipsius, Andreas Vesalius, Desiderius Erasmus and Gerard Mercator.
Micro and nano - KU Leuven is home to the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (imec), a world-class research centre in micro- and nanoelectronics.
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