Scientists Target Brain Cells to Alleviate Neuropathic Pain

Scientists Target Brain Cells to Alleviate Neuropathic Pain

By Staff

More than one million Americans have neuropathic pain. Wouldn’t it be a good thing if that pain could be reduced or even eliminated? Scientists at Rutgers University think that targeting brain cells that are supposed to provide immunity, but in some cases, do the opposite – may cause chronic pain that can last a lifetime.

“The general thought has been that these cells are supposed to be beneficial in the nervous system under normal conditions,” said Long-Jun Wu, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience at Rutgers University. “But, in fact, in those with this neuropathic pain these cells known as microglia, have proliferated and instead become toxic.”

Wu and his team discovered that chronic neuropathic pain – caused by nerve damage 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 treated targeting microglia within a few days. Their research on the topic has just been published in both Nature Communications and Cell Reports.

“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,” said Wu. “If we were able to deplete the microglia cells causing the condition before nerve injury occurs, we can permanently prevent it.”

Neuropathy occurs when nerves are injured from trauma or disease, and persists even after the injured nerve has healed. It is often resistant to pain medicine.

In laboratory studies on mice, Wu and his colleagues used chemotherapy drugs to prohibit the microglia brain immune cells from proliferating. The results from their research showed that this chemotherapy drug reduced the amount of pain the mice experienced after the injury occurred.

“What needs to be done is prevent the microglia cells from multiplying in the first place,” said Wu. “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.”

According to Rutgers, scientists have studied microglia cells in relationship to neuropathic pain for the past two decades, but Rutgers is the first to pinpoint the exact role the cells have in the initiation and maintenance of the condition. Wu and his colleagues found that the proliferation of these types of cells is one of the major contributors of microglial pain.

This discovery could lead to the development of more effective painkillers with fewer side effects, he said.

“Our research raises the intriguing possibility that minimizing microglial proliferation may be a novel approach for pain control,” Wu said. “We hope this will eventually lead to more effective pain killers that will battle this devastating disease.”

Subscribe to our blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Authored by: Staff

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Linda at 7:32 pm

    Can you explain ADEM and what can be done for it. My friends daughter who is 24 has it and is unconscious for a month or more nothing they have tried has worked. Is she going to die?

  2. Michael G Langley, MD at 9:48 am

    I have no doubt that the scarring fro my cauda equina trauma has a lot to do with this! Sitting here, right now, with the bothersome tingling. I even was dreaming about the little toe being irritated when I finally got to sleep this morning! I hope they can figure out how to successfully treat it, now. I have lost a lot of sleep from the incessant tingling!

  3. Renee Mace at 9:36 am

    My question would be then what do we who have Central Pain Syndrome for over 15 years do? With the new CDC guidelines lowering my dose of life saving pain medications, I no longer have a life to live other than to breath and endure to crippling effects of the savage pain that was once in a humane dose, like a 5 on the pain scale, today I live in a 7 to 9 on the pain scale which is slowly killing me because I already have high blood pressure and I take medication for it,, but now my blood pressure raises up so high that I am at risk of a heart attack/stroke or even death. My doctors are all very concerned for me but they can’t give me more blood pressure medication because it is pain caused and many doctors in my state have lost their practice due to being Pain Doctors who prescribed pain medication after no other treatment worked, so all they can do is be scared that if they where to go over the CDC’s guidelines they too could lose their jobs. It is a sad day when I and 1000’s of other pain sufferer’s can’t get the help we desperately need. So as for your letter, how can you treat us with pain coming from our brain for many years? Please don’t leave those of us that have the disorder to slowly die off before something can be done to stop our horrible pain. Instead have highly trained doctors able to treat us as needed without the fear of losing their hard earned career’s. We should be able to get the right dose of medication as long as it is needed or there is something new to try out to seek relief from this savage pain. Please I beg all you doctors to ban together to tell the CDC and it cronies that until something is developed for people like me, let them be able too treat their patients without being scared. If you don’t people like me will be dead or have to turn to other means, PLEASE SAVE US FROM UNEDUCATED PEOPLE WHO THINK (ONE SIZE FITS ALL) meaning medication doses, is enough because we might become addicts. Isn’t that why we see our doctor every month so that they can check up on us?????