New research suggests that chronic pain changes the immune system. Researcher Moshe Szyf said, “We found that chronic pain changes the way DNA is marked not only in the brain but also in T cells, a type of white blood cell essential for immunity. Our findings highlight the devastating impact of chronic pain on other important parts of the body such as the immune system.”
Chronic pain is classified as pain lasting longer than six months, and worldwide it is the number one cause of disability. Treatments for chronic pain still remain underdeveloped.
For the study, researchers examined DNA from the brains and white blood cells of rats. Coauthor Laura Stone explained, “Methyl marks are important for regulating how these genes function.” Szyf added, “We were surprised by the sheer number of genes that were marked by the chronic pain – hundreds to thousands of different genes were changed. We can now consider the implications that chronic pain might have on other systems in the body that we don’t normally associate with pain.”
The findings offer hope into possible future treatments for chronic pain, according to the researchers.