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Neuropathic pain is a typically persistent and intractable type of chronic pain. This condition is not a symptom of a disorder but a pathological state caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the nervous system. Neuropathic pain caused by nerve injury or disease remains a major challenge for modern medicine worldwide.

It is certainly a challenge in the administration of workers’ compensation claims now that use of opiate medications are on the decline.

A recent review article published this year discusses emerging evidence by integrating recent advances related to Schwann cells and neuropathic pain. Their findings showed that that an improved and extended comprehension of the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of neuropathic pain would allow the development of successful targeted pain therapy.

The role of Schwann cells in pain perception has been further explored this year, and new conclusions were just published this month in the Science Journal. A new organ involved in the sensation of pain has been discovered by these scientists, raising hopes that it could lead to the development of new painkilling drugs.

Researchers say they have discovered that the special cells that surround the pain-sensing nerve cells that extend into the outer layer of skin appear to be involved in sensing pain. The scientists say the finding offers new insight into pain and could help answer longstanding conundrums.

:The major question for us now is whether these cells are actually the cause for certain kinds of chronic pain disorders,” Prof Patrik Ernfors, a co-author of the research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told the Guardian.

The researchers reveal how they examined the nature of cells in the skin that, they say, have largely been overlooked. These are a type of Schwann cell, which wrap around and engulf nerve cells and help to keep them alive.

The study has revealed these Schwann cells have an octopus-like shape. After examining tissues, the team found the body of the cells sits below the outer layer of the skin, but that the cells have long extensions that wrap around the ends of pain-sensing nerve cells that extend up into the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin.

The scientists were surprised at the findings because it has long been believed that the endings of nerve cells in the epidermis were bare or unwrapped. “In the pain field, we talk about free nerve endings that are responsible for pain sensation. But actually they are not free,” Ernfors said.