Researchers Devise Decoy Molecule to Block Pain Where It Starts

UT Dallas News Center Natural Science And Mathematics

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Jan. 16, 2018
The RNA mimic that Dr. Zachary Campbell’s team designed showed the ability to reduce behavioral response to pain.For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he’s developing new ways to blunt pain.“If you have ever hit yourself with a hammer, afterward, even a light touch can be painful for days or even weeks,” said Campbell, who researches pain on the molecular level at The University of Texas at Dallas. “While many of us may not be coordinated enough to avoid an accident, my goal is to disrupt the inception and persistence of pain memories.”Campbell directs the Laboratory of RNA Control and recently published a study in the journal Nature Communications in close collaboration with Dr. Ted Price, an associate professor from the Pain Neurobiology Research Group, and Dr. Michael Burton, a new assistant professor from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences who conducted postdoctoral work at UT Dallas.This work describes a new method of reducing pain-associated behaviors with RNA-based medicine, creating a new class of decoy molecules that prevent the onset of pain.“Even simple memories are nothing short of extraordinary,” Campbell said. “To promote healing, our nervous system catalogs our sensory experiences and, under normal circumstances, eventually forgets. Defects in this process can result in chronic pain — a root cause of enormous suffering.”Reducing Behavioral Response to PainThe need for research in this field is easy to understand.“Pain is a pervasive and devastating problem,” Campbell said. “It’s the most prominent reason why Americans seek medical attention. Poorly treated pain causes enormous human suffering, as well as a tremendous burden on medical care systems and our society.”Campbell’s team took the approach of blocking the creation of the proteins that set pain in motion. After an injury, instructions provided by the genome — …

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