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Nerves on edge

Discovery that could help combat neuropathic pain
Discovery that could help combat neuropathic pain

The neurons responsible for perception of touch during embryonic development are identified in mice. Experts talk about somatosensory neurons. With this discovery, it will be possible to better understand the formation mechanisms of neurons sensitive to mechanical deformations, the mechanoreceptors, particularly involved in tactile sensation. These results have been published in the journal Neuron.

Our body constantly feels changes in our environment. The sensations associated with it (heat, pain, body position in space) are perceived by the countless sensory receptors of our somatosensory system.

In recent years, knowledge in this field have made great progress. In contrast, the properties of neurons specifically responsible for the sensation of touch were still enigmatic. Hence the interest in these recent works, which have characterized several genes involved in differentiation of nerve cells involved in embryonic development.

A detailed analysis of a small group of neurons shows that they innervate specifically specialized structures of the skin - such as hair follicles - involved in perception of touch. Moreover, these neurons connect to parts of the spinal cord already known to include information related to touch.

Using mice, the researchers were able to identify the signaling pathway involved in the harmonious development of these neurons. It thus becomes possible to study the circuits responsible for integration of mechanoreceptive in the central nervous system. This development should bring a better understanding of certain issues, such as neuropathic pain and defects of peripheral nerve regeneration, and also to generate new therapeutic strategies.


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