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Scientists uncover protein key to neuropathic pain

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, in collaboration with scientists from The University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Miami, are spearheading a groundbreaking approach to address neuropathic pain, a challenging condition often caused by nerve damage in various bodily tissues. This type of pain, characterized by sensations like electric shocks, tingling, burning, or stabbing, is associated with conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy treatments, and injuries, affecting millions worldwide. Traditional pain medications often fall short in providing relief and may carry serious side effects and addiction risks.

In a significant breakthrough published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team identified a molecule that demonstrates promising results in alleviating hypersensitivity in mice models by targeting a specific involved in neuropathic pain. Stephen Martin, the June and J. Virgil Waggoner Regents Chair in Chemistry at UT Austin and co-corresponding author of the study, highlighted the compound's efficacy as a painkiller, noting its long-lasting effects across various neuropathic pain models, including diabetic and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy.

Named FEM-1689, the compound offers a potential alternative to opioid-based medications as it does not interact with opioid receptors in the body. Beyond reducing sensitivity, FEM-1689 also helps regulate the integrated stress response (ISR), a network crucial for the body's response to injuries and diseases. Well-regulated ISR aids in restoring balance and promoting healing, whereas dysregulation can contribute to conditions like , diabetes, and .

The ultimate aim is to develop FEM-1689 into a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain without the risks associated with opioids. Martin emphasized the debilitating nature of neuropathic pain and the pressing need for well-tolerated therapeutics. Theodore Price, a professor at UT Dallas and co-corresponding author of the paper, lauded the collaborative effort as a significant advancement in non-opioid pain management, marking the culmination of a fruitful five-year partnership with colleagues at UT Austin.

Source: University of Texas at Austin

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