Everything the medical experts knew about how we feel pain might just change because of a new discovery made in mice.
While it’s yet to be identified in humans, an organ that helps in pain detection has been found in mice. That sharp pain you feel when poked by a pin might not be felt due to nerve endings, as previously believed, it can be credited to glial cells.
According to a recent study by the journal Science, the newfound “sensory organ” is basically a mesh of branched cells and nerves. It responds to external cues and relays that information to the brain.
According to scientists, unlike other known sensory organs under the skin, this one plays a role in pain perception, specifically the perception of mechanical pain.
What is mechanical pain?
Mechanical pain refers to the discomfort caused by pressure, pricking, and other impacts to the skin.
Previously, it was believed that individual cells called nociceptive fibers were thought to be the main starting points for this kind of pain.
How the organ was discovered
The research team conducted experiments with mice to test the organ’s functionality. They measured the rodents’ responses to different types of pain.
They deactivated the cells in the newly discovered organ using gene editing. The rodents showed no changes in their response to thermal pain, or discomfort caused by heat or cold.
But all of the subjects showed a reduced response to mechanical pain when the glial complex was turned off.
The study was coauthored by Patrik Ernfors, a molecular neurobiologist at the Karolinska Institutet, a medical university in Sweden.
The discoveries have changed what scientists knew about how pain begins and progresses—at least in mice.
Currently, they have not yet checked if the organ exists in humans, but according to Ernfors, the probability is high.