Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Dentistry (OHSU) used an animal model to discover a protein that is involved in craniofacial pain signaling. This discovery could assist in developing new treatments for craniofacial pain conditions, such as migraines, temporomandibular joint disorder, trigeminal neuralgia, and toothache. The trigeminal nerve signals head pain to the brain, but the molecular mechanisms of trigeminal pain are not well understood. Studies suggest most craniofacial pain disorders are caused by inflammation. In previous research, the OHSU dental school research team had discovered that trigeminal nerve cells make a molecule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a critical role in the development and normal functioning of the nervous system. When trigeminal nerve cells are stimulated, such as occurs from craniofacial pain, BDNF is released. The team has now found that pulpal inflammation of as few as 2 molar teeth leads to a dramatic and widespread increase in BDNF production by trigeminal nerve cells, even those not connected to the teeth.
“Thanks to a tremendous collaborative effort of experts in several different disciplines of dentistry and neuroscience, we were able to develop an amazing model to study molecular mechanisms of craniofacial pain using genetic manipulations,” said Agnieszka Balkowiec, MD, PhD, principal investigator of this study. “With this model, we will finally be able to dissect specific mechanisms of BDNF action and its role in inflammatory pain conditions.”
(Source: ScienceDaily, March 28, 2010.)