Pain, Women's Health

Men and Women Feel Pain Differently

He hurts; she hurts, but she hurts differently–and probably more often. That’s the opinion of researchers at McGill Universityimages-1, who took a close look at the longstanding theory that pain is transmitted from the site of injury or inflammation through the nervous system using an immune system cell called microglia. Their research, yes, on mice, not humans, shows that this is only true in male mice. When the researchers altered the function of microglia in a variety of different ways, the action effectively blocked pain in male mice, but it had no effect in female mice.  So how does pain work with women? The researchers believe that a completely different type of immune cell, called T cells, is responsible for sounding the pain alarm in female mice, although they don’t yet know how that works. Why do we care? Because understanding the pathways of pain and sex differences is absolutely essential as we design the next generation of more sophisticated, targeted pain medications. So says Michael Salter, Professor at The University of Toronto, the co‑senior author of the study. “We believe that mice have very similar nervous systems to humans, especially for a basic evolutionary function like pain,” says Salter,  “so these findings tell us there are important questions raised for human pain drug development.”

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