Many books and studies have pointed out physical and psychological differences between men and women in the past, and now, there’s a new item to be added on the list. A team of researchers from McGill University, Duke University, and The Hospital for Sick Children, have found that male and female mice experience pain differently.
While both the male and female test subjects had the same sensitivity to pain, they registered the feeling in completely different immune cells. It’s an important finding that could one day lead to better, more effective treatments and therapies that target gender specific biologies of pain.
Dr. Jeffrey Mogil, co-author and director over at McGill University’s Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain, gave a statement to CBS News, informing that “If you’re doing drug development and you want to understand the biology of pain to develop new analgesics, it looks like there are two biologies to be found, not one”.
He went on to add that he and his team have been actively working on one of the two, but he also revealed that it turned out to be the less relevant one, clinically speaking. The researchers have been looking at the male biology of paint, however most of the people affected by chronic pain are women.
Recent health statistics released by the CDC show that women are predisposed to experiencing more types of pain than men, head aches, face pains and back pains in particular can be very unpleasant for the fairer gender. Statistically speaking, women are two times more likely to go through such pains than men are.
Dr. Mogil explained that female mice have been less used in the past as they were considered to be more of a variable than male mice because of their hormone cycles. He also admits that this is flawed thinking as male mice are in fact the ones that pose more of a variability due to having dominance hierarchies and fighting in their cages.
Advancement in the field is much needed as the chronic pain is the most wide spread affliction, affecting more people than any other illness or medical condition such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease.
For their study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Dr. Mogil and his colleagues picked out male and female mice that had hypersensitivity to pain. They started off by giving them foot injuries, then they examined them for high touch sensitivity, a symptom common among those suffering from chronic pain.
In an attempt to treat the mice, the researchers gave them some medicine meant to help calm down a cell type known as microglia. These cells can be found in the spinal cord and are considered to be the immune system’s first line of defense.
What the results showed was that male mice were relieved of their pain, while female mice still showed every bit as much touch sensitivity as they did before being given the medicine. It turned out that female subjects registered pain not in the microglia, but in the T cells, an active second line of defense in the immune system.
Not all is lost as Dr. Benedict Kolber, assistant professor specialized in Biological Sciences and Research, as well as Education Coordinator over at the Chronic Pain Consortium from Duquesne University (Pittsburgh), gave his own statement to CBS News, sharing that there’s currently a big debate and movement in the pain community, with several experts advocating that researchers include more female subjects when testing new drugs, treatments or therapies.
Image Source: dailymail.co.uk