A Closer Look at Pain

Essay by stefanievanHigh School, 12th gradeA+, April 2013

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A Closer Look at Pain: Prostaglandins

Most health conditions involve some form of pain, whether it is a toothache or maybe it is as serious as something like cancer. Nevertheless, the sensible thing to do is to depict the cause behind this feeling of pain and find a solution to alleviate it. For centuries, natural remedies have been proven to alleviate pain such as white willow bark (Salix alba) and myrtle (Myrtus communis). However, in 1991, the revolutionary discovery of hormone-like compounds called "prostaglandins," was found to be the cause of inflammation. Prostaglandins are a family of chemicals that promote inflammation, pain, fever, etc.; support blood clotting of blood platelets; and protect the lining of the stomach from the damaging effects of acid (Ogbru).

W. L.Xie and his colleagues, students of the Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, discovered the enzyme in which the body produces prostaglandins: cyclooxygenase.

The students found two different isoforms of cyclooxygenase: cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Although these enzymes may sound similar, they have two different effects on the body. COX-1 is a constant, physiological, housekeeper-like enzyme, which is produced throughout the body. It is part of the body's essential day-to-day cellular and metabolic activities. This includes maintaining the strength and integrity of the stomach lining, regulating blood flow, and balancing platelet function. On the other hand, COX-2 was discovered to be the inducible form of the enzyme, which expresses proinflammatory molecules within parts of the body including the brain, reproductive organs of both genders, the kidneys, and also within osteoblasts (bone-forming cells). Unlike COX-1, COX-2's expression is usually kept at a minimum; however, when activated, it regulates the prostaglandin production specifically within the cells that are already inflamed. In result of this massive discovery, pharmaceuticals commonly...