Pain causes suffering and leads to high costs for society. Almost every fifth person has ongoing pain and there is a great need to find new painkillers. But pain sensitivity is also necessary for survival and has a protective function. This results in reflex reactions that prevent tissue damage, such as when you pull your hand, feel a stick from a sharp object, or burn.
Now scientists have at the Karolinska Institute, they have discovered a new sensory organ in the skin that feels dangerous from the environment. It consists of glial cells that have many and long projections and which together form a tissue-like organ under the skin. This organ is susceptible to painful mechanical damage such as sticks and bumps.
The study describes what the new pain-sensitive organ looks like, how it is organized along with pain-sensitive nerves in the skin, and how organ activation leads to electrical impulses in the nervous system that lead to reflex reactions and pain attempts. The cells that make up the organ are very sensitive to mechanical direction, which explains how they can detect sticks and bumps. In experiments, the researchers also closed the organ and saw that the possibility of experiencing mechanical pain was diminished.
– Our study shows that pain sensitivity arises not only from the nerve fibers of the skin, but also from the cells of this newly discovered pain-sensitive organ. The discovery alters the perception of the underlying cellular mechanisms of body sensation and can affect the understanding of chronic pain, he says Patrick Earnfors, Professor in the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Carolina Institute, and Principal in charge of the study.