Scientists discover new pain-sensing organ in the skin

  • Monday 19, August 2019 02:03 PM
Sharjah 24 – Reuters: Swedish scientists have discovered a new organ under the skin that helps process certain kinds of pain.
According to National Geographic, mechanical pain was typically thought to be perceived through sensitive nerve cell endings in the epidermis.

Unlike other nerve cells, these lacked a protective layer and was thus believed to be responsible for pain sensation.

But researchers from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet recently uncovered a sensory organ between the skin's outer and inner layers, consisting of a mesh-like network of glial cells with multiple long protrusions.

This newly discovered organ has been dubbed the nociceptive glio-neural complex, and is highly sensitive to mechanical stimuli such as pinpricks or pressure. It is less sensitive to discomfort caused by heat or cold.

To test the organ's functionality, the team genetically modified mice so that glial cells on the skin of their feet could be stimulated by light.

When light was shone on the cells, the mice exhibited behavior that indicated pain, including lifting their feet, and licking, shaking, or guarding their paws.

While the organ has been identified in mice, scientists have yet to confirm that it exists in humans, though the probability is high.

Assuming it functions the same way in humans, the findings could change the way we think about how pain starts and progresses. It may also be significant in the understanding of chronic pain.