Can targeting brain cells be any better for neuropathic pain?
It is known that more than 1 million Americans suffer from neuropathic pain. It could be decreased or even eliminated by targeting brain cells that are assumed to provide immunity. But, in some cases, it causes chronic pain that could last a lifetime.
Long-Jun Wu, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience at Rutgers University said "The general thought has been that these cells are supposed to be beneficial in the nervous system under normal conditions. But, in fact, in those with this neuropathic pain these cells known as microglia, have proliferated and instead become toxic."
In a novel research, Wu and team found that chronic neuropathic pain caused by nerve impairment as a result of an injury, surgery or a debilitating disease like diabetes or cancer could be greatly reduced in animals if the injury was managed targeting microglia within a few days. Wu added "If we can catch that window within one to five days to inhibit microglia after nerve injury, we can partially reverse the development of chronic pain. If we were able to deplete the microglia cells causing the condition before nerve injury occurs, we can permanently prevent it."
Unlike other physiological pain, it persists even after injured nerve has recovered and is often resistant to pain relievers like acetaminophen and naproxen. As opiates are used to curb pain, they have side effects and are not always effective for neuropathic pain patients. Wu used chemotherapy drugs to forbid the microglia brain immune cells from proliferating, similar to oncologists to prevent cancer cells. The results revealed that this chemotherapy drug decreased the amount of pain in mice. Wu mentioned "What needs to be done is prevent the microglia cells from multiplying in the first place. It had been thought that these cells were beneficial in a normal brain, but our research discovered how these cells function under neuropathic pain condition and initiate the problem." Wu discovered that the proliferation of these types of cells is one of the main contributors of microglial pain. He said that this finding could lead to the development of more effective painkillers with less side effects.
Wu stated that "Our research raises the intriguing possibility that minimizing microglial proliferation may be a novel approach for pain control. We hope this will eventually lead to more effective pain killers that will battle this devastating disease."