BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Medical notes
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 10:16 GMT
Sexes 'feel pain differently'
Male pain (Autocat)
A natural protein may explain the gender pain divide
Men may be better than women at tolerating pain because of a key protein, scientists have proposed.

Its presence may explain the controversial finding that men have a higher pain threshold than women.

It's a gross oversimplification to say there's a gender difference in response to pain

Prof David Rowbotham
The latest evidence is based on studies of laboratory mice carried out by a team at the University of California in San Francisco.

Some experts have dismissed the research however, saying pain is much more complex in people.

The US researchers found male mice lacking a protein called GIRK2 had a lower pain threshold than normal.

There was no difference in female mice with the same mutation, however.

This suggests that the molecule plays a sex specific role in transmitting pain signals.

Tailored treatments

The research results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team, led by Dr Igor Mitrovic, said: "Given that some pain syndromes require multi-drug treatments for the control of pain, these studies provide information for rationally based differential processes in men and women."

Experts say it will be a long time before 'his and hers' pain relief becomes a reality.

According to Dr Trevor Bushell of Strathclyde University in Glasgow, there is some evidence that men and women react to pain differently but it needs further research.

"Pain is a lot more complex in humans than animals," he told BBC News Online.

Dr Bushell, of the department of physiology and pharmacology at Strathclyde, said gender specific painkillers were theoretically possible.

It will take a great deal of work, however, to identify the different receptors and pathways involved in pain control in men and women.

'Multi-dimensional'

David Rowbotham, Professor of Pain Management and Anaesthesia at the University of Leicester, said pain differed widely depending on the context.

Pain caused by cancer, for example, is very different to that caused by physical injuries such as a broken leg.

It also has an emotional context and cannot be measured in the same way as, say, blood pressure or other physiological signs.

"It's a gross oversimplification to say there's a gender difference in response to pain," he told BBC News Online.

"Pain is a multi-dimensional thing and it depends on the context you're looking at."

See also:

04 Sep 98 | Health
26 Nov 99 | Health
21 Mar 02 | Health
23 Apr 02 | Health
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes