Scientists Discover New Pain-Sensing Organ

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A new organ involved in the sensation of pain has been discovered by scientists, raising hopes that it could lead to the development of new painkilling drugs. Researchers say they have discovered that the special cells that surround the pain-sensing nerve cells that extend into the outer layer of skin appear to be involved in sensing pain. The scientists say the finding offers new insight into pain and could help answer longstanding conundrums.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers reveal how they examined the nature of cells in the skin that, they say, have largely been overlooked. These are a type of Schwann cell, which wrap around and engulf nerve cells and help to keep them alive. The study has revealed these Schwann cells have an octopus-like shape. After examining tissues, the team found the body of the cells sits below the outer layer of the skin, but that the cells have long extensions that wrap around the ends of pain-sensing nerve cells that extend up into the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. The scientists were surprised at the findings because it has long been believed that the endings of nerve cells in the epidermis were bare or unwrapped. With the special Schwann cells and the nerves they engulf forming a mesh-like network, the researchers say they have essentially discovered a new pain-sensing organ. “It is a two-cell receptor organ: the nerve and Schwann cell together,” Prof Patrik Ernfors, a co-author of the research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said.

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Source: Slashdot – Scientists Discover New Pain-Sensing Organ

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