A new study has made a game changing discovery, and revealed that men and women might feel pain in different ways. This could prompt laboratories to change how they perform certain experiments.
Experts say that laboratories prefer to use male test animals in laboratories because in some cases female hormone fluctuations and reproductive cycles can alter the results of tests. The majority of mice, dogs, and pigs used currently in laboratory tests are males.
All of this might have to change however thanks to new research from the University of Alabama in Birmingham that suggests males and females use different biological systems to process pain.
The study found contradict the current understanding that both sexes share a common pain circuit and thus must experience pain in the same way. Published in the Nature Neuroscience online journal the research states that because of distinct amounts and types of hormones associated with each sex, pain receptors might be affected differently .
In order to reach this conclusion scientists have performed several experiments on laboratory mice testing the way a specialized protein called BDNF created by a immune cell called microglia reacts to different medication and how mice cope without it.
The BDNF protein is crucial in the neural development both in mice and humans. The BDNF protein displayed by the microglia is also responsible for sending pain signals to the nervous system, and reacts to inflammation in the body causing to the affected area’s sensation of pain.
Scientists severed a few branches of the sciatic nerve in mice in order to provoke chronic pain, once the procedure was done, the team administered several types of microglia inhibiting medication, to the mice.
Both male and female mice were used in this experiment and in the first phase after the sciatic nerve severing and the administration of medication only the male mice reacted to the pain inhibitors.
In the second phase of testing scientists used mice with a genetic trait that allowed the team to eliminate the effects of the BDNF producing when they wanted. They then proceeded to sever the sciatic nerve in these mice as well.
Again the male mice were the only ones to experience complete pain relief but the females in both tests were sensing the chronic pain even when administered the pain inhibitor medication.
This lead the team to its conclusion that pain is felt differently by the two sexes. However this might not be the only reason for which laboratories might have to use subjects of both sexes as standard practice.
Several female biologists say that, because clinical trial result are less likely to be linear when using female subjects , drug companies prefer to increase the number of male subjects used in a test. The new research might however contribute to a change in standard for clinical trials.
Image Source: the-scientist.com