February 29, 2000: Researchers in the University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine, along with a team of collaborators from three other countries, have reached a new understanding of how sensory nerve cells transmit their signals to the central nervous system, leading to inflammation and pain. The discovery made by the international research collaboration, including Morley Hollenberg, Nathalie Vergnolle and John Wallace, was published this month in Nature Medicine.
The U of C scientists from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics collaborated with colleagues from the United States, Italy and the United Kingdom. The study points to a novel mechanism for the activation of sensory nerves that have long been known to play a role in inflammation. These findings shed new light on how sensory nerve mechanisms function, potentially leading to new anti-inflammatory drugs and the treatment of pain.
"The strength of this study is that it involves researchers from so many different disciplines, allowing us to explore sensory nerves, inflammation and pain from a perspective that no one else has," says Hollenberg.
The study illustrates that proteases coming from cells that are known to play a role in inflammation activate a new class of receptor (PAR2). These findings indicate that substances that block these receptors or the proteases that activate them would make good candidates for anti-inflammatory drugs, that could provide relief to those who suffer from arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and migraine headaches. All of these conditions are believed to involve a sensory nerve component.
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