Thwack! Insects feel chronic pain after injury

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image of a fruit fly brain and ventral nerve cord<!––>

Brain and ventral nerve cord (resembling the spinal cord in human) of an uninjured fly showing nociceptive sensory neurons (green), stained with anti-GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter (red) and neuronal synaptic marker nc82 (blue).

“Animals need to lose the ‘pain’ brakes to survive in dangerous situations but when humans lose those brakes it makes our lives miserable. We need to get the brakes back to live a comfortable and non-painful existence.”

In humans, chronic pain is presumed to develop through either peripheral sensitisation or central disinhibition, said Associate Professor Neely. “From our unbiased genomic dissection of neuropathic ‘pain’ in the fly, all our data points to central disinhibition as the critical and underlying cause for chronic neuropathic pain.”

“Importantly now we know the critical step causing neuropathic ‘pain’ in flies, mice and probably humans, is the loss of the pain brakes in the central nervous system, we are focused on making new stem cell therapies or drugs that target the underlying cause and stop pain for good.” 

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