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Scientists have created "pain in a dish" by converting skin cells into sensitive neurons that react to pain stimulation.
The laboratory-generated nerve cells respond to physical injury, chronic inflammation and cancer chemotherapy.
In future they could be used to investigate the origins of pain and develop better pain-relieving drugs, researchers said in the journal Nature Neuroscience (£).
"I think the ability to make human pain neurons for the pain field is going to be very important," Dr Clifford Woolf, who led the team at Harvard Medical School, said.
The Department of Health have dismissed union claims that the majority of NHS workers will miss out on a 1% pay increase.
Unions claim the Government rejected a 1% pay rise recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body for all NHS workers. They say the decision means 60% will now not even receive a 1% increase.
Dismissing the claims, the DoH said:
- The 55% of NHS staff not receiving a 1% rise would get an incremental increase averaging 3% and increasing to 6% for the highest.
- The remaining 45% will receive a 1% rise this year followed by a 2% increase in 2015.
The department added that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt met with trade unions last week.
More than 12,000 NHS workers went on strike today in a row over pay, NHS England figures suggest.
Initial reports showed that out of 453,664 staff due to attend work this morning, 12,303 were absent.
That is 3% or one in 30 in comparison to 4.6% during the strike action in October.
The row over NHS pay will continue until next May unless fresh talks are agreed, unions have warned.
Linda Perks, Unison's London regional secretary, said they expected the Government's approach to remain unchanged next year, meaning 60% of staff would continue to be denied a pay rise.
She said: "It's like a game of snakes and ladders because health workers will be back to pay levels of 2013, forcing them to work overtime or take out loans.
"The pay campaign will continue because we simply cannot afford to back off."
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More than 400,000 NHS workers are expected to join picket lines across the country today after they were refused a 1% pay rise by the Government.
Members of 11 unions are striking in England and Northern Ireland. The action will be followed by work to rule for the rest of the week.