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HomescienceScience says that men and women experience pain differently

Science says that men and women experience pain differently

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When it comes to pain, men and women often report different experiences, and now science has an explanation. A study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Arizona, led by Dr. Frank Borica, revealed that pain receptors in men and women respond to different molecules. This discovery was published in a prestigious journal brainIt represents a major advance in understanding the neurobiology of pain.

Differences in nociceptors and hormones

Prolactin sensitizes pain receptors in women. (Source: Getty Images / Reproduction)

The research team conducted detailed experiments using the cultured neurons in the laboratory From human and animal organ donors. Samples from monkeys, humans and mice were used.

According to the researchers, nociceptors, which are neurons specialized in detecting pain, differ between genders. In women, the hormone prolactin, known for its role in lactation, sensitizes dorsal root ganglion neurons, amplifying pain. In contrast, in men, the neurotransmitter orexin B, which is involved in regulating sleep, plays a similar role.

These hormones change the activation thresholds of pain receptors. In other words, they reduce the intensity of stimulation needed for these receptors to send pain signals to the brain. This causes low-intensity stimuli, which would not normally cause significant pain, to be perceived in a more painful manner. This differentiation has been observed not only in rodents, but also in primates and humans, confirming the universality of the discovery.

Implications for pain management

Orexin B sensitizes pain receptors in men.  (Source: Getty Images / Reproduction)
Orexin B sensitizes pain receptors in men. (Source: Getty Images / Reproduction)

Until recently, the assumption was that pain worked similarly in everyone, regardless of gender. However, this research suggests that precision medicine, which takes patient gender into account, can significantly improve pain treatment outcomes. Drugs that block the sensitivity of nociceptors to prolactin may be effective in women, while drugs that block orexin B may benefit men.

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Researchers highlight the importance of balancing men and women's participation in clinical trials. Unequal proportions can lead to biased results and do not represent the effectiveness of treatment for both sexes. Future clinical trials should take into account gender differences in pain perception to develop more effective and specific treatments.

The work of Dr. Borica and his team opens new areas of research. The discovery of an antibody against prolactin represents a promising step toward treating pain in women. Likewise, orexin antagonists, which are already approved to treat sleep disorders, could be re-evaluated for the treatment of pain in men. The research team continues to explore other sexually dimorphic pain mechanisms, with the hope of developing more personalized and effective treatments.

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