Chronic pain affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide and is a major cause of disability, causing more disability than cancer and heart disease. Canadian researchers, including Dr. Michael Salter at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, are shedding new light on the molecular dynamics of chronic pain. They have uncovered a critical role in pain for a class of cells present in the brain and spinal cord, called microglia. They have found microglia-to-neuron-signaling to be crucial in the development of pain hypersensitivity after injury, but also for one of the paradoxical effects that morphine and other opioids sometimes produce, called hyperalgesia, which is an increase in pain sensitivity. The identification of these key players in the development of chronic pain helps identify important targets for the development of novel therapeutic avenues. Dr. Salter presented his team’s latest results at the 9th Annual Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, on May 26, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia. This meeting is being held from May 24 to May 27, 2015. "We're developing a new understanding of the control of microglia-neuron interactions that may be critical for individualizing pain therapies" said Dr. Salter. Pain is a complex experience. The International Academy for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines it as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage." While acute pain can be useful, as a signal that protects us from injury or even death, and inflammatory pain can protect us during healing, chronic neuropathic pain, which is a disease of the nervous system, is pain that persists after an injury is healed, serves no useful function, and is a major cause of disability. Work done in Dr.
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