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Heat avoidance, pain and survival

A small nematode worm with recently discovered heat avoidance genes is likely to lead to the identification of new pain relief targets.
Heat avoidance, pain and survival
Nociception is the encoding (by nerves) and processing of potentially harmful stimuli such as high temperature to cause pain. The GATSNCE (Genetic analysis of temperature sensation and nociception in Caenorhabditis elegans) project has investigated this phenomenon down to the molecular (genetic) and nervous system level.

GATSNCE developed new assays to identify several genes that, when mutated, knock out or impair heat avoidance in the nematode. The team found that there were interactions between these genes and this will most likely form the basis of study of a signalling network.

In conjunction with the genes, the researchers identified several neurons involved in heat avoidance. These were used to construct a working model of the thermal avoidance circuit. Optogenetic tools, light-sensitive proteins, tested the logic of the newly proposed circuit system.

After the project end, work will continue and six new genes for heat avoidance are to be mapped. Once identified, these new mutants can be used to further dissect the molecular control of nociception.

GATSNCE research has not only developed new tools and models, but their work represents a firm knowledge base for research into pain and its function in survival. As the nematode mechanisms of nociception are very similar to those of humans, the discovery of new genes could lead to therapeutic targets for effective pain management.

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Heat avoidance, pain, survival, nematode, nociception, thermal avoidance circuit
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