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Researchers Closer To Discovering Causes of Serious Pain Syndrome

Update Date: Jul 03, 2014 09:04 AM EDT

Researchers have taken a major step forward in comprehending the causes of a disorder that leads to chronic pain. 

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is serious condition that affects a limb following an accident or operation. In worse cases, it can cause severe pain lasting many years and in some cases limb swelling, hair and nail growth changes and muscle atrophy. However up until now no clear evidence of the cause existed. 

Researchers in the new study reported that they have successfully transferred antibodies from the serum of patients with CRPS to mice, causing many of the same symptoms to be replicated. 

"CRPS is a serious condition which isn't fully understood.  The findings of this study hint at a cause for it - harmful serum-autoantibodies - and raise the possibility of finding a treatment," said lead researcher Dr Andreas Goebel, who works in the University of Liverpool and is a Consultant in Pain Medicine at The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, in the press release. 

In mice injected with the antibodies from CRPS sufferers, there was significantly more swelling of the affected limbs compared to mice injected with antibodies from healthy volunteers. Similar to what is seen in patient's limbs, the paws of CRPS-antibody injected mice became more painful to pressure, and the paw tissues contained a higher concentration of the nerve-mediator Substance P, the press release added.

"It's quite possible that CRPS is caused by a fault in the immune system.  This study seems to pinpoint the cause as autoantibodies, and by examining this area further we can look to develop a cure," Dr Goebel added. 

The study has been published in the journal Pain

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