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Neurotrophin and an Animal Model of Fibromyalgia

In a study funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and co-funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, led by Alice A. Larson, PhD, investigators looked to better understand the processes involved in stimulating and regulating pain in rodents as a model for humans.

The primary role of amino acids is to serve as building blocks for proteins in the body, but Dr. Larson and her colleagues have found that at least two of them, glutamate and aspartate, have another important function: helping to transmit pain information to the brain.

To understand better the function of these two amino acid neurotransmitters, as well as the role of other neurotransmitters in painful conditions such as fibromyalgia, the researchers attempted to create an animal model of chronic pain in rats. They did so by injecting rats with kainic acid, a compound derived from seaweed that mimics the effects of the two amino acids.

A single injection of kainic acid to the vagus nerve - one of the nerves in the brain that supplies nerve fibers to the organs of the chest and the abdomen - was found to enhance long-term pain sensitivity in a fashion that is relatively insensitive to high doses of morphine. As such, rodents receiving the injection are proving useful for the study of chronic pain mechanisms.

The scientists can't say how closely the syndrome they have created mimics fibromyalgia, but comparing what is happening in their model to what is happening in fibromyalgia should give them important information about both.