A new group of medications being developed to treat mood disorders could also relieve chronic pain a new study from University College London (UCL) reports. The research was funded by the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom. This study, published in Science Translational Medicine, reveals how a protein that shapes the body's response to stress also drives chronic pain and so offers new targets for future pain treatments.

The researchers studied genetically modified lab animals that lacked a protein called FKBP51. This protein is very important for regulating stress. Variations in the human FKBP5 gene are linked to the risk of developing stress-related psychiatric disorders, such as major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Previous studies had shown people with specific FKBP5 variations feel greater physical pain after serious trauma, and the UCL team have now discovered that lab animals without FKBP51 experience reduced chronic pain from nerve damage and arthritic joints.

"Inhibiting FKBP51 has a powerful effect in our lab animals with chronic pain," says lead author Dr. Maria Maiaru (UCL Cell Development Biology). "Not only does it block thepain from their injury withour affecting their normal pain response, it also makes them more mobile. We did not find any negative side-effects."

The team then tested an FKBP51 blocking compound called SAFit2, devloped by Dr. Felix Hausch at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry to treat mood disorders by acting in the brain to reduce anxiety. By selectively blocking FKBP51 in the spinal cord, the uCL researchers were able to test its effects on chronic pain independently of its known effects on the brain. They found that SAFit2 substantially alleviated chronic in the lab animanls, making it a promising candidate for medicine development. Although this was an experimental study they feel if the results can be successfully translated into a treatment for people, it would be a win-win.

Source: University College London