Research from The University of Texas at Dallas published in The Journal of Neuroscience supports a growing consensus in the scientific community that for men and women, pain manifests itself differently at the cellular level. This may mean that certain pain drugs may work for men but not for women.
The reason that this has not been detected previously is that, historically, in order to avoid fluctuating hormone levels effecting results, most scientific studies used only male test subjects. In a university press release, lead author Dr Ted Price, an associate professor of neuroscience at the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences admitted “We’ve been overlooking a key variable for a long time, and I’m as guilty as everyone else.”
Dr Price explained that “those running clinical trials…have been frustrated because the preclinical results don’t come through in the clinical studies. The cause of this problem, potentially, is that up until recently, many of the preclinical investigators were just using males. Then, in the clinical trials, human participants are primarily female, because more women suffer chronic pain than men.”
Separate pain mechanisms
Dr Price said “for the same magnitude of pain in a male and a female, the mechanisms that drive pain seem to be remarkably separate. We’ve made a cellular change that completely reverses the genesis of the chronic pain in only the male.”
Gender specific drugs
The research has so far been limited to mice, but Dr Price believes that “if we see the same results in human tissues, it will support the idea that you could make a [specific] drug to treat pain in men.” The corollary to this is that “it’s fairly likely we’ll want to make male- and female-specific drugs for chronic pain.”
However, despite the majority of chronic pain sufferers being women, as things stand, whilst researchers may now be a little closer to developing a gender-specific drug for men, there is no immediate prospect of one for women.