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$9M grant will allow Wake Forest medical school to study 'love hormone' for chronic pain

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Love hurts, but could it also heal?

That’s the question behind a $9 million grant the Wake Forest University School of Medicine has been awarded to study whether a so-called “love hormone” can treat pain after an injury.

The love hormone is actually oxytocin. It is a naturally-occurring neurotransmitter involved in childbirth and is commonly given to induce labor.

It can also be produced when people are aroused or when we fall in love, hence the nickname. There’s evidence that it reduces anxiety and enhances trust, but how it works is not well understood.

Now researchers at the WFU School of Medicine want to know if its benefits will work in other areas to reduce long-term pain after injuries or surgery.

While cesarean birth isn’t exactly pain-free, it doesn’t often lead to long-term — that is, chronic — pain. So oxytocin may have a protective role against the hurt.

Researchers want to determine if a similar effect could be found if it is administered in other types of surgeries where chronic pain is more often found, such as knee or joint replacements.

If it works, the next step would be to determine proper dosage.

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