Chronic pain and anxiety: What is the connection?

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Chronic pain and anxiety: What is the connection?

According to a new study, expression of a single peptide has been found to linked with both anxiety disorder and chronic pain. This suggests a better method for treating patients with both conditions than combination of harmful pharmaceuticals. The study findings were published recently in Journal of Biological Psychiatry, offering a new hope for treatment of pain and anxiety.

University of Vermont (UVM) researchers found that a neurotransmitter in the body, called as pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP), which is released in response to stress, plays a role in both anxiety and chronic pain conditions. It revealed that by blocking its action in nervous system may be a better way to treat patients than the current standard medicines. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that help send information between cells.

As per Victor May, Ph.D., professor of neurological sciences UVM, "Chronic pain and anxiety related disorders frequently go hand-in-hand." May and other researchers found that PACAP was highly expressed in women with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSD), which led to the new study's examination of how the peptide operates in the nervous system. They found that anxious behavior and pain hypersensitivity were significantly reduced when a PACAP receptor antagonist was applied which was designed to block the release of the neurotransmitter.

May conveyed that, “By targeting this regulator and pathway, we have opportunities to block both chronic pain and anxiety disorders," and next step is to work with University of Vermont chemistry colleagues to develop small molecule compounds that can antagonize the actions of PACAP. "This would be a completely different approach to using benzodiazepine and opioids -- it's another tool in the arsenal to battle chronic pain and stress-related behavioral disorders."

University of Vermont
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