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Scientists Find New Method To Help Patients Fight Chronic Pain

Update Date: Jan 21, 2016 09:31 AM EST

Pain can be a friend when it prevents you from taking some forbidden steps. Still, why does chronic pain occur over a long time?

A group of researchers from Duke University found that the structure of a protein is connected to the process of pain and heat perception and is situated in an ion channel of TRPV2. This is a cell surface membrane vital for a number of biological processes, which could help to develop chronic pain therapies.

"These receptors are gaining particular attention because they are so critical to how we sense and respond to our environment," said Seok-Yong Lee, senior author of the study, in a press release. "Our results give a hint as to how one receptor works, a necessary component for developing new treatments for a variety of conditions involving sensation."

The Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid (TRPV) receptors tend to open with heat, which permits calcium ions to come in and send signals to the brain. Recent research unveiled the structure of TRPV1 and the current study set out to discover the structure of TRPV2 which, unlike TRPV1, is only located in the nervous system.

With the help of cryo-electron microscopy, TRPV2 was seen to represent the stage "between TRPV receptor openings and closings". This "in-between" state when the ion channel is desensitized to stimuli can help us to understand chronic pain.

At present, he is creating biochemical conditions needed to push TRPV2 into other structures in order to find out what it looks like when the channel is "open and closed".

"If we can obtain these different conformations, we can generate a series of snapshots - perhaps even an entire movie - that will allow us to understand how this machine operates," he said.

The findings were published in the Jan.18,2016 issue of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

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