Jun 042010
 
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In most cases of chronic pain — lingering pain that never seems to go away after accidents or prolonged illnesses — no pill exists to dull the hurt.

Billions of dollars are lost every year in sick days taken to alleviate chronic pain, and as much money is spent by the healthcare system to diagnose what’s wrong.

Dr. Joel Hirsch of Tel Aviv University conducts basic research investigating calcium channels in the human body, established targets for the alleviation of chronic pain. His research, recently presented at the Biophysical Society in San Francisco, provides new information into how these channels work. His laboratory is developing computer-derived models of drugs that might affect chronic pain — such as pain from backaches, sore limbs and arthritis — which are targeted for calcium channels.

“We have determined structures of calcium channel components which provide a framework for drug design and targeting,” Dr. Hirsch says. “There is still much to learn about calcium channels, which enable pain signals to travel from the body to the brain.”

Once he and his colleagues understand the deeper mechanisms of these channels, they hope to use new drugs to modulate them “on” and “off” as needed — and provide relief to the millions of people who suffer from the condition.

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