Getting at the Molecular Roots of Pain

to eliminate difficult-to-control pain while leaving normal sensation intact. Pain is a part of life. Often, a few painkillers and some rest are enough to soothe the scraped knees of childhood and the aches and sprains of adulthood. But for some, pain is not as fleeting or as easily dismissed. The pain from cancer, chemotherapy, arthritis, AIDS, and other diseases can be unrelenting and incapacitating. Some individuals even experience constant, bone-crushing pain for no apparent reason. For man

Karen Hopkin
Jan 3, 1999

to eliminate difficult-to-control pain while leaving normal sensation intact. Pain is a part of life. Often, a few painkillers and some rest are enough to soothe the scraped knees of childhood and the aches and sprains of adulthood. But for some, pain is not as fleeting or as easily dismissed. The pain from cancer, chemotherapy, arthritis, AIDS, and other diseases can be unrelenting and incapacitating. Some individuals even experience constant, bone-crushing pain for no apparent reason. For many of these chronic pain sufferers, even morphine doesn't relieve the agony.

How is it that some types of pain--caused by a twisted ankle or a nasty sunburn--are temporary and can be subdued by painkillers, while others are persistent and seemingly untreatable? To answer that question, researchers in the laboratory and the clinic are probing the mechanisms that underlie both acute and chronic pain. Their search may yield new methods for eliminating difficult-to-control...

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