Chronic pain is a highly prevalent pathology and, despite this, it is difficult to diagnose and even more complex to treat. The consequences of this are devastating for those who suffer from it and, furthermore, it is a situation little understood by those around them.

With the conviction of finding new therapeutic options that improve the quality of life of thousands of people affected by this problem, the Millennium Nucleus for the Study of Pain MiNuSPain was created, one of the five new centers of this type financed by the Initiative. Millennium Scientist of the National Research and Development Agency (ANID) as of this 2021.

It is a consortium that brings together five researchers from Chilean universities: the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad de Concepción, Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Universidad Católica del Norte and Universidad de Chile; in a translational effort to find new therapeutic alternatives that may be relevant for neuropathic pain.

In this regard, the academic from the Universidad de Concepción and Associate Researcher of the Millennium Nucleus MiNuSPain, Dr. Gonzalo Yévenes, stated that «neuropathic pain is a special categorization of chronic pain», adding that «it is called that way, because it originates of damage to the somatosensory system ”.

It is estimated that neuropathic pain affects between 7 and 10% of the world’s population, which is why it has become a priority public health problem. In addition, it is disabling and generates a great socioeconomic cost.

The research lines of the Nucleus range from biomedical science to contact with patients and focus on determining the key molecular targets involved in neuropathic pain. In particular, they focus on the study of cellular and molecular mechanisms in preclinical and clinical models.

Considering that current drugs are not very effective, the researcher stated that the development of research to understand the mechanisms of pain would be key to the creation of new drugs.

In the case of the line of work developed by the laboratory at the Universidad de Concepción, the study is focused on glycine receptors, a subclass of inhibitory receptors of the central nervous system present in the spinal cord, which constitutes the first processing station from the pain stimuli that come from the periphery.

«Our research has shown that this type of receptor is very promising to develop new analgesics that have, in this case, a very little explored target in the area of ​​pain control,» argued Dr. Gonzalo Yévenes.

Finding new therapies that are more effective is critical, given the magnitude of the problem. It is estimated that close to 10% of the country’s annual health budget is allocated to spending on medical care for pain, which is equivalent to the total resources allocated for the development of science in Chile. 

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Credits: Radio UdeC.