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........ published in NEWSLETTER # 51

by Dr. L. Urban, Sandoz Institute for Medical Research, London (U.K.)

The research field of somatosensory processing in mammals has experienced revolutionary changes in recent years. Accumulation of basic and clinical data has been accelerated, and new phenomena have emerged. With the aid of new, refined methods, molecular and cellular changes have been described, which underlie the signal transduction_transmission between the internal/external environment and the central nervous system. The discovery of the interaction between the nervous and the immune system has, for example changed our view on the development of inflammatory diseases, while the cloning of different trophic factors has boosted studies revealing profound changes in the regeneration of neurons, and induction of changes in phenotype. Results will have eventually a great impact on pain research and consequently ultimately in clinical pain management.

The study of the pre_ and postsynaptic modulation of transmitter release, and the examination of the combined effects of amino acid and peptide transmitters has become possible by using cultured cell lines and in vitro techniques. Although it is in an embryonic state, computational properties of single DRG cells under normal and pathological conditions are being investigated.

This brief introduction indicated how our knowledge of the input (dorsal root ganglion cell and spinal secondary sensory neuron) to the somatosensory system has increased dramatically recently. However, many investigators cultivate only a very specific field in the growing area of somatosensory research and find it difficult to integrate a more universal knowledge of their work. To process the large body of information requires interaction between scientists investigating different aspects of the same system of phenomen.

Given this background, a symposium was organised to provide the opportunity for integration of expertise in studying the function of the somatosensory system at the cellular level. The content of this book (NATO ASI SERIES H79) is based on the presentations at this NATO Advanced Research Workshop.

Authors were deliberately given the freedom to decide on the material which they wanted to present and discuss, therefore some chapters give more results and speculative discussion while others incorporate less data and focus on reviewing recent developments. In order to give some structure to the book, chapters which review a certain area will preceed others which present more original findings. Contributors were encouraged to discuss controversial issues and allowed to present unpublished original, even controversial, observations. Therefore some chapters contain data which are open to criticism with the view that they may trigger further experimental work and debate.
Reference books: A16, A48, A194, H79

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