News Release 

Defective potassium channels cause headache, not body pain

Widespread channel type could be target of future migraine treatments

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Top: Normal distribution of TRESK channels (green) in facial pain sensory neurons. Bottom: Absence of channels in the knock-out mouse model. view more 

Credit: Guo et al., eNeuro 2019

Defective potassium channels involved in pain detection can increase the chance of developing a headache and could be implicated in migraines, according to research in mice published in eNeuro.

A type of potassium channel called TRESK is thought to control the excitability of peripheral sensory neurons that detect pain, heat, cold, and touch. Even though these channels are found throughout the neurons sensing both body and facial pain, channel mutations are linked only with headaches and not body pain.

Yu-Qing Cao and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis analyzed a knock-out mouse with defective TRESK channels and measured the resulting neural activity. The researchers found that only facial pain receptors were more excitable, and that the sensory neurons had more spontaneous activity. Using behavioral tests, the scientists observed that the knock-out mice showed increased sensitivity to temperature and touch stimuli on their faces, as well as more headache-related behaviors, but no body pain behaviors.

These results indicate that TRESK channels have cell-specific roles and are responsible for regulating pain in facial sensory neurons, making them a target for migraine treatment research.

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Manuscript title*: TRESK K+ Channel Activity Regulates Trigeminal Nociception and Headache

*A preprint of the manuscript is available on bioRxiv

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About eNeuro

eNeuro, the Society for Neuroscience's open-access journal launched in 2014, publishes rigorous neuroscience research with double-blind peer review that masks the identity of both the authors and reviewers, minimizing the potential for implicit biases. eNeuro is distinguished by a broader scope and balanced perspective achieved by publishing negative results, failure to replicate or replication studies. New research, computational neuroscience, theories and methods are also published.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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