A paper published today in Science Translational Medicine revealing the molecules that make sunburns hurt may provide insight into potential treatments for chronic pain.
In the study, researchers from King's College London used UV light to sunburn small areas on some very brave volunteers' bodies. They then measured levels of CXCL5, a molecule belonging to a family of proteins that recruit inflammatory cells to injured tissue, in both sunburned and non-sunburned areas. The researchers tracked CXCL5 levels alongside the amount of pain that volunteers reported in the sunburned areas. The correlation between levels of pain and levels of CXCL5 suggested that the inflammation triggered by this molecule is responsible for most of the sunburn's painfulness. Researchers noticed that an antibody that neutralizes CXCL5 reduced pain in sunburned areas.
Researchers hope that their discoveries will help generate an analgesic treatment not only for painful sunburns, but also for other disorders resulting in chronic pain or inflammation.
Previously: Relieving Pain in America: A new report from the Institute of Medicine, Elliot Krane discusses the mystery of chronic pain and Researching ways to "heal the hurt"
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