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Scientists find proof that Pain-Sensing Cells are either Male or Female


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nociceptors, Sexual dimorphism in pain perception

Why in the News?

Recent research has uncovered significant differences in how male and female nociceptors (pain receptors) are activated, paving the way for more precise, sex-specific pain management therapies. 

About Pain and Differences in Perception:

  • The International Association for the Study of Pain defines it as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”
  • Subjectivity: Pain perception is highly personal and varies among individuals.
  • Scientific Findings: Recent research by the University of Arizona Health Sciences demonstrated functional sexual dimorphism in nociceptors, the nerve cells responsible for perceiving pain

Why do we perceive Pain?

  • Role of Nociceptors: Nociceptors are nerve cells with bare endings found throughout the body. They detect extreme pressure, temperature, and chemical signals, converting them into electrical signals sent to the brain via the spinal cord.
  • Activation Mechanism: Nociceptors in both men and women produce similar pain perceptions but are activated differently. 
    • Normally, they respond to high-intensity stimuli, but their activation threshold can decrease under certain conditions, causing low-intensity stimuli to trigger pain.

Nociceptor Response Threshold

  • Gender Differences: Females generally have a lower nociceptor response threshold than males.
  • Peripheral Nociceptor Sensitisation: External factors can lower the pain threshold, causing nociceptors to react to stimuli they would normally ignore.

The Old Vs New Study

  • Previous research showed that the hormone prolactin increases pain responses in female rodents, while the neurotransmitter orexin B sensitized male rodents to pain.
  • According to the New study, the Prolactin hormone increased nociceptor activation in female mice, while orexin-B had a similar effect in male mice. These findings were consistent across monkeys and humans.
  • Nociceptors in males and females can be differentially sensitized, leading to varying pain thresholds.

Significance of this Pain Research

  • Sex-Specific Pain Treatment: Current pain management often overlooks the patient’s sex, despite differences in pain conditions between men and women.
    • Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and painful bladder syndrome are more common in women, while cluster headaches and gout are more frequent in men.



[2021] What are the research and developmental achievements in applied biotechnology? How will these achievements help to uplift the poorer sections of the society?


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