Protein found that may provide relief from neuropathic pain

Dec 05, 2007

Neuropathic pain is caused by injury to the peripheral nerves in diseases such as HIV/AIDS, shingles, and cancer or in repetitive motion disorders and trauma, and does not respond well to conventional pain-relieving drugs.

Research in rodents by scientists from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine has provided evidence that a protein called LRP1 may help to ease neuropathic pain by blocking the response of glial cells that support and protect sensory neurons in the peripheral nervous system. Their findings, which could represent a novel target for neuropathic pain therapy, are published in the December 3 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“Neuropathic pain differs from ordinary pain in that it is usually perceived as ongoing burning or as ‘pins and needles’ electric-shock type of sensation,” said Wendy Campana, Ph.D., associate professor in UCSD’s Department of Anesthesiology, who led the study. “It is caused by nerve damage that can be associated with chronic inflammation or direct nerve injury.”

The UCSD studies show that a form of LRP1 that is present in body fluids such as blood counteracts the activity of inflammatory cytokines, proteins which are involved in developing and sustaining chronic pain states. Cytokines act as messengers to either stimulate or inhibit the immune response, are produced by many cell types including white blood cells present during infection and inflammation

“We think that the anti-inflammatory activity of LRP1 can be harnessed to decrease chronic pain,” said Campana. “By decreasing the presence of cytokines in the area of nerve damage, LRP1 calms the pain signals that are sent to the spinal cord.”

In-vitro analysis confirmed that LRP1 works to modify the response of glial cells that results in neuropathic pain, according to Campana, who added that interactions of neurons and glial cells are very important in determining pain.

Campana worked with post-doctoral scholar Alban Gaultier, Ph.D., and Steven L. Gonias, M.D., chair of UCSD’s Department of Pathology, who are exploring other aspects of LRP1 function. The UCSD scientists observed that injured peripheral nerves in both mice and rats release LRP1 into the surrounding tissue. Administration of LRP1 into the rodents’ sciatic nerves prior to injury provided a protective effect, decreasing the level and activity of injury-induced proinflammatory cytokines, such as TNF-alpha, in the local environment and inhibiting spontaneous pain.

In addition to decreasing inflammatory cytokines locally, treatment with LRP1 also decreased inflammatory cytokines in a region called the spinal dorsal horn, where central pain processing occurs.

“TNF-alpha has some positive properties in infection, so you may not want to block its activity entirely,” said Campana. “It appears that LRP1 limits, but doesn’t completely block, the increase in proinflammatory cytokines produced by glial cells after nerve injury. We think this research opens up a number of new research directions for understanding and treating chronic neuropathic pain.”

Source: University of California - San Diego

Explore further: Research points to potential treatment strategy for Fragile X syndrome

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

1 hour ago

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

1 hour ago

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

1 hour ago

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Recommended for you

Proper stem cell function requires hydrogen sulfide

1 hour ago

Stem cells in bone marrow need to produce hydrogen sulfide in order to properly multiply and form bone tissue, according to a new study from the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry ...

Bionic ankle 'emulates nature'

7 hours ago

These days, Hugh Herr, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, gets about 100 emails daily from people across the world interested in his bionic limbs.

Firm targets 3D printing synthetic tissues, organs

8 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—A University of Oxford spin-out, OxSyBio, will develop 3D printing techniques to produce tissue-like synthetic materials for wound healing and drug delivery. In the longer term the company ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Spate of Mideast virus infections raises concerns

A recent spate of infections from a frequently deadly Middle East virus is raising new worries about efforts to contain the illness, with infectious disease experts urging greater vigilance in combatting ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...