A protein called RGS4 (Regulator of G protein signaling 4) plays a prominent role in the maintenance of long-term pain states and may serve as a promising new target for the treatment of chronic pain conditions, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published in print October 16, in The Journal of Neuroscience.
The discovery may help doctors stop acute pain from progressing into chronic pain, a condition in which patients experience not just pain, but a number of debilitating symptoms ranging from sensory deficits to depression and loss of motivation. The transition from acute to chronic (pathological) pain is accompanied by numerous adaptations in immune, glial, and neuronal cells, many of which are still not well understood. As a result, currently available medications for neuropathic or chronic inflammatory pain show limited efficacy and major side effects. Commonly administered opioids provide temporary alleviation of some pain symptoms, but carry serious risks like addiction in the context of long-term treatment for chronic pain. Therefore, there is an imminent need for novel approaches towards the treatment of chronic pain and for the development of medications that disrupt pain states instead of simply alleviating symptoms.