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It's official, women do process pain differently than men

Woman do process pain differently to men
Woman do process pain differently to men

A new study has revealed that men and women process pain differently, and that could lead to the development of 'his and hers' painkillers.

The study, conducted by Michael Salter of Toronto University and Jeffrey Mogil, a pain researcher at McGill University in Montreal, used mice to examine chronic pain.

Up to now, science believed that microglia were the immune cells used to transmit pain from the point of injury around the nervous system, increasing sensitivity in the area of the pain.

However, when the study blocked or genetically modified these cells in mice, it only blocked the pain for male mice.

Female mice, it appears, transfer the pain using a totally different, and not yet fully understood, system.

Co-author Michael Salter of Toronto University said: ‘Understanding the pathways of pain and sex differences is absolutely essential as we design the next generation of more sophisticated, targeted pain medications.

‘We believe that mice have very similar nervous systems to humans, especially for a basic evolutionary function like pain, so these findings tell us there are important questions raised for human pain drug development.

Mogill said: ‘Research has demonstrated that men and women have different sensitivity to pain and that more women suffer from chronic pain than men.

'But the assumption has always been that the wiring of how pain is processed is the same in both sexes.

‘The realisation that the biological basis for pain between men and women could be so fundamentally different raises important research and ethical questions if we want to reduce suffering.’

This may mean that men and women need different painkillers to combat similar injuries and more research will be needed into curbing pain transmitted in a non-microglia way.

The study was published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience.