During neuropathic pain, glial cells (mainly astrocytes and microglia) become activated and initiate a series of signaling cascades that modulate pain processing at both spinal and supraspinal levels. It has been generally accepted that glial cell activation contributes to neuropathic pain because glia release proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and factors such as calcitonin gene-related peptide, substance P, and glutamate, which are known to facilitate pain signaling. However, recent research has shown that activation of glia also leads to some beneficial outcomes. Glia release anti-inflammatory factors that protect against neurotoxicity and restore normal pain. Accordingly, use of glial inhibitors might compromise the protective functions of glia in addition to suppressing their detrimental effects. With a better understanding of how different conditions affect glial cell activation, we may be able to promote the protective function of glia and pave the way for future development of novel, safe, and effective treatments of neuropathic pain.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience