Gordon Smith

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Study finds females less receptive to pain relief

Approx Reading Time-10Two researchers stateside have proved that females are less receptive to morphine, so thanks to the findings, more advanced pain relief could be on the way.

 

 

 

Morphine: it’s the magic drug that makes the pain go away. That is, at least, unless you’re a female.

A new study by Georgia State University, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has found that the female brain feels pain on a more acute level than its chromosomal cousin, with more active immune cells existing in its pain processing regions.

This, in combination with the higher prevalence of chronic and inflammatory pain conditions – such as fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis – in females, has found the medical marvel to often be less effective in blocking pain.

Hillary Doyle, a graduate student from the Neuroscience Institute of Georgia State’s Murphy Laboratory, said the findings show a need for much larger doses being administered to the fairer sex before there is a noticeable effect.

“Indeed, both clinical and preclinical studies report that females require almost twice as much morphine as males to produce comparable pain relief,” Doyle said. “Our research team examined a potential explanation for this phenomenon, the sex differences in brain microglia.”

Therefore, in order to achieve maximum pain relief, the brain’s resident immune cells – microglia – should be blocked, allowing for an improved responsiveness to opioid pain medication, matching the level of pain relief typically seen in males.

Microglia were also found to be more active in brain regions involved in processing pain, which may be a contributing factor in the significantly higher incidence rates for various chronic pain syndromes in females than males.

In a healthy individual, microglia look for signs of infection or pathogens in the brain. If administered in the absence of pain, morphine is seen as a pathogen, causing the brain’s innate immune cells to activate, releasing inflammatory chemicals such as cytokines.

As always, the study was conducted on rats. To test how the difference in sex affects morphine analgesia, Doyle administered drugs to male and female rats, designed to inhibit microglia activation.

Dr Anne Murphy, co-author on the study and associate professor in Georgia State’s Neuroscience Institute, said the results could have a greater impact in the improvement of female pain relief.

“The results of the study have important implications for the treatment of pain, and suggest that microglia may be an important drug target to improve opioid pain relief in women.”

Microglia were also found to be more active in brain regions involved in processing pain, which may be a contributing factor in the significantly higher incidence rates for various chronic pain syndromes in females than males.

So it seems when it comes to pain management in women, it’s more about blocking the brain’s own Norton Anti-Virus, than a case of the morphine the merrier.

 

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