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Mis-wiring and Mis-firing

Non-invasive imaging technique reveals neuron regrowth malfunction underlying chronic pain after nerve injury

06 August 2022

Mis-wiring and Mis-firing

No one likes to be in pain. Luckily, for most of us pain goes away with time or medical help. But when our nervous system becomes damaged, these signals can turn into persistent, debilitating pain in conditions such as neuropathy. Why this happens isn’t clear and means there are inadequate treatment options. Using a technique called multiphoton excitation fluorescence imaging, researchers studied the recovery of nerves after damage in mice to try and understand what causes neuropathy. Three days after toe injury (bottom row), the digit had no sensitivity after loss of two types of sensory neurons, tactile fibres (left) and nociceptors (right), compared to normal (top row). Using this non-invasive imaging technique to observe neuron regrowth, the researchers found that nociceptors were responsible for the chronic pain. As these sensory neurons try to re-establish their network in damaged areas, they terminate abnormally and are stimulated with a lighter touch than before, causing pain.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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