Pain has been believed to be initiated by the activation of free nerve endings without end organs in the skin. It causes suffering and results in considerable costs for society.
Almost one individual in each five experiences consistent pain and there is an important need to discover new painkilling drugs. In any case, sensitivity to pain is likewise required for survival, and it has a protective function. It prompts reflex reactions that avoid harm to tissue, for example, pulling your hand away when you feel a jab from a sharp item or when you burn yourself.
Scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have found another sensory organ that can distinguish painful mechanical damage, for example, pricks and impacts.
The newly discovered organ under the skin is sensitive to hazardous environmental irritation. It comprises glia cells with multiple long protrusions and which collectively go to make up a mesh-like organ inside the skin. This organ is sensitive to painful mechanical damage, for example, pricks and pressure.
The organ is organized with pain-sensitive nerves in the skin, and its activation leads to electrical impulses in the nervous system that result in reflex reactions and the experience of pain.
The organ is made of cells that are highly sensitive to mechanical stimuli, which explains how they can participate in the detection of painful pinpricks and pressure. During the experiments, scientists were able to block the organ successfully and observed the resultant decreased ability to feel mechanical pain.
Patrik Ernfors, professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics and chief investigator for the study, said, “Our study shows that sensitivity to pain does not occur only in the skin’s nerve fibers, but also in this recently-discovered pain-sensitive organ. The discovery changes our understanding of the cellular mechanisms of physical sensation, and it may be of significance in the understanding of chronic pain.”
The discovery is being published in the journal Science.