A drug resulting from the research, published in the journal: Neurobiology of Disease, would offer new hope to sufferers of chronic pain conditions such as traumatic nerve injury, for which few effective painkillers are currently available.
The work, led by Dr Lucy Donaldson in the University’s School of Life Sciences, in collaboration with David Bates, Professor of Oncology in the University’s Cancer Biology Unit, focuses on a signal protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
VEGF controls the re-growth of blood vessels in tissues which have been damaged by injury. Professor Bates and colleagues had previously discovered in 2002 that VEGF comes in two forms and acts like a switch — one which turns on the growth of blood vessels and another that blocks growth.
However, this latest research has shown for the first time that these two forms of VEGF not only act on blood vessels but also differently affect the sensory nerves that control pain.
The academics discovered that the VEGF that promotes blood vessel growth causes pain, while the other, which inhibits blood vessel growth, prevents pain.
For more information visit the University of Nottingham website, or the open access research paper ‘Regulation of alternative VEGF-A mRNA splicing is a therapeutic target for analgesia’ (DOI: 10.1016/j.nbd.2014.08.012), published by the Neurobiology of Disease.