September 3, 2014 9:13 pm

Calgary study delivers new hope to those with chronic pain

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CALGARY- A discovery from the University of Calgary could lead to new treatments for the more than 20 per cent of Canadian adults who suffer from chronic pain.

“What happens when people get chronic pain is that there is a biochemical change causing nerves to send pain signals even though there is no injury,” explains Dr. Gerald Zamponi, a neuroscientist with the U of C’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

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Chronic pain is often difficult to manage because it’s so different from regular pain. Now researchers say they’ve discovered how the chronic pain signal develops.

“We figured out the transition from normal pain to chronic pain involves the interaction of an enzyme with a protein that we study in the lab called a calcium channel.”

Discovering the cause of chronic pain signals has also allowed researchers to uncover a way to shut those signals off. It’s a molecule that’s been found in a number of drugs already in use. Dr. Zamponi is now partnering with the Centre for Drug Research and Development in Vancouver to isolate this molecule, in the hopes of developing new pain medications.

Calgary’s Sheridan Holt has suffered from chronic pain all her life.  She was diagnosed with arthritis at age two, now in her 20s she takes pain medication daily. Better drugs, she says, are desperately needed.

“It is a very important thing and it’s something that I would definitely take advantage. I’m affected daily.”

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