Groundbreaking new research has shown that women may have different biological pathways for pain than men, raising the possibility that many pain medications may be significantly less effective at treating pain in women.
The new study, published in the journal Brain, found significant differences between men and women with a history of chronic neuropathic pain. In men, researchers found, chronic pain was typically marked by highly active macrophages — cells of the immune system. But in women who suffer from chronic pain, protein-like substances released by neurons known as neuropeptides were significantly more prominent.
Ted Price, a neuroscience professor at the University of Texas who helped author the study, said that their research suggests that new pain drugs targeting neuropeptides could be game-changers for women suffering from chronic pain. In particular, he touted the potential for new drugs that could relieve chronic migraines, which are experienced much more often by women than by men, by targeting a neuropeptide known as CGRP.
“CGRP is a key player in lots of forms of chronic pain in women, not just migraine,” said Price. “There’s a huge amount of suffering that’s happening that we could solve. As a field, it would be awesome to start having some success stories.”
A 2005 review of research by McGill University professor Jeffrey Mogil found that 79 percent of pain studies examined male animals exclusively, while only 4 percent considered possible sex differences in how pain is biologically expressed.
Read the full story at Wired.