The same cells that safeguard our central nervous system may also play a role in chronic pain. People with persistent lower back pain had more translocator protein, which is linked with inflammation, in their brains than their healthy counterparts, new PET and MRI images show. Translocator protein acts as a marker for how active nerve-protecting glial cells are.
Past studies in animals have shown that glial cells play a role in chronic pain, but evidence in humans has been hard to find. The results of the new study, published January 12 in Brain, may help researchers develop a more objective way to measure pain and better ways to treat it.