Redheads May Have Different Pain Thresholds – New Research Reveals Why

Redhead Pain

Examine in red-haired mice uncovers mechanisms concerned and suggests new remedy methods for ache.

New analysis led by investigators at Massachusetts Common Hospital (MGH) gives insights on why folks with pink hair exhibit altered sensitivity to sure sorts of ache. The findings are revealed in Science Advances.

In folks with pink hair (as in quite a few different species of animals with pink fur), the pigment-producing cells of the pores and skin–referred to as melanocytes–include a variant type of the melanocortin 1 receptor. This receptor sits on the cell floor, and if it turns into activated by circulating hormones referred to as melanocortins, it causes the melanocyte to modify from producing yellow/pink melanin pigment to producing brown/black melanin pigment. Earlier work by David E. Fisher, MD, PhD, director of the Mass Common Most cancers Heart’s Melanoma Program and director of MGH’s Cutaneous Biology Research Heart, demonstrated that the shortcoming of red-haired people to tan or darken their pores and skin pigment is traced to inactive variants of this receptor.

To research the mechanisms behind completely different ache thresholds in red-haired people, Fisher and his colleagues studied a pressure of red-haired mice that (as in people) accommodates a variant that lacks melanocortin 1 receptor operate and likewise reveals increased ache thresholds.

The workforce discovered that lack of melanocortin 1 receptor operate within the red-haired mice brought on the animals’ melanocytes to secrete decrease ranges of a molecule referred to as POMC (proopiomelanocortin) that’s subsequently minimize into completely different hormones together with one which sensitizes to ache and one which blocks ache. The presence of those hormones maintains a steadiness between opioid receptors that inhibit ache and melanocortin 4 receptors that improve notion of ache.

In red-haired mice (and due to this fact, probably people), having each hormones at low ranges would seemingly cancel one another out. Nevertheless, the physique additionally produces extra, non-melanocyte-related components that activate opioid receptors concerned in blocking ache. Subsequently, the web impact of decrease ranges of the melanocyte-related hormones is extra opioid indicators, which elevates the edge for ache.

“These findings describe the mechanistic foundation behind earlier proof suggesting assorted ache thresholds in several pigmentation backgrounds,” says Fisher. “Understanding this mechanism gives validation of this earlier proof and a useful recognition for medical personnel when caring for sufferers whose ache sensitivities might range.”

Fisher provides that the outcomes counsel new methods to control the physique’s pure processes that management ache notion–for instance, by designing new medicines that inhibit melanocortin 4 receptors concerned in sensing ache.

“Our ongoing work is concentrated on elucidating how extra skin-derived indicators regulate ache and opioid signaling,” provides co-lead writer Lajos V. Kemény, MD, PhD, a analysis fellow in Dermatology at MGH. “Understanding these pathways in depth might result in the identification of novel pain-modulating methods.”

Reference: “Decreased MC4R signaling alters nociceptive thresholds related to pink hair” by Kathleen C. Robinson, Lajos V. Kemény, Gillian L. Fell, Andrea L. Hermann, Jennifer Allouche, Weihua Ding, Ajay Yekkirala, Jennifer J. Hsiao, Mack Y. Su, Nicholas Theodosakis, Gabor Kozak, Yuichi Takeuchi, Shiqian Shen, Antal Berenyi, Jianren Mao, Clifford J. Woolf and David E. Fisher, 2 April 2021, Science Advances.

This work was supported by the Nationwide Institutes of Well being, the Melanoma Research Alliance, the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Basis, and the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Basis.
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