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Researchers explore epigenetic influences of chronic pain

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Researchers explore epigenetic influences of chronic pain

Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent, disabling and expensive public health crises in the United States. It affects more than 100 million Americans, with annual costs estimated at $635 billion, says a 2014 report from the American Pain Society.

Despite the enormous societal impact of chronic pain, present treatment options are limited to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), opioids, anticonvulsants and antidepressants, which provide pain relief to only about half of patients. Furthering the problem, prescription opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. There were more than 45,000 painkiller-related deaths in 2014 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine are aiming to identify new molecular mechanisms involved in pain. Their latest study, published this month in Epigenetics & Chromatin, shows how one protein – acting as a master controller – can regulate the expression of a large number of genes that modulate pain.