In the past few years, pain researchers have increasingly started to focus their attention on the role of cells other than nerve cells in pain.
Pain research aims to target the immune system, among other areas. This means that the site of action and the drug development target is in the immune cells that surround nerve cells and cause inflammation, or more precisely, in the interaction between the nerve cell and the immune cell. The chemical produced by immune cells over-stimulates nerve cells, a phenomenon that researchers aim to reduce.
In acute inflammation, immune cells play a role in causing the pain. Chronic pain is often caused by long-term subclinical inflammation. The inflammation may be located directly in the joint, as in the case of osteoarthritis, or in the pain pathways in the ganglia in the peripheral nervous system, the spinal cord or the brain, causing neuropathic pain.