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Pain. 2003 Jul;104(1-2):241-7.

Injection of nerve growth factor into human masseter muscle evokes long-lasting mechanical allodynia and hyperalgesia.

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Department of Clinical Oral Physiology, Dental School, University of Aarhus, Vennelyst Boulevard 9, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.


Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a neurotrophic protein with a pivotal role in development and maintenance of the nervous system on one side and inflammatory and neuropathic pain states on the other. NGF causes clear signs of behavioral hyperalgesia in animal models and following intradermal and systemic administration in humans. The present double-blinded, placebo-controlled study was designed to test quantitatively the effect and duration (1h, 1, 7, 14, 21 and 28 days) of NGF (5 microg in 0.2 ml) injected into the masseter muscle. Pressure pain thresholds (PPT) and pressure tolerance thresholds (PTOL) were used as indices of mechanical allodynia and hyperalgesia in the jaw-closing muscles. In addition, perceived pain intensity was assessed by the subjects on a 0-10 numerical rating scale (NRS) with the jaw at rest and in relation to various oral functions (chewing, yawning, talking, swallowing, drinking and smiling). Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to test for significant effects. Injection of NGF into the masseter muscle was associated with significantly reduced PPT for 7 days (ANOVA: P<0.001) and PTOL for 1 day (P<0.001). Buffered isotonic saline injections into the masseter muscle also significantly lowered the PPT after 1 day but to a significantly smaller extent than the NGF injections (P<0.001) and isotonic saline had no significant effects on PTOL. In contrast, assessment of PPT and PTOL in the non-injected temporalis muscles demonstrated a significant increase after 14-28 days (P<0.001), which may have reflected an adaptation to the test procedure. NRS scores of chewing and yawning were significantly increased for 7 days following NGF injection (P<0.001). Systemic adverse effects were noted in one subject who reported fever and slight discomfort about 8h after the NGF injection. In conclusion, this is the first study to show that injection of NGF into the human masseter muscle causes local signs of mechanical allodynia and hyperalgesia that persist for at least 7 days as well as pain during strenuous jaw movement. The present pain model is safe and may be used to gain further insight into the neurobiological mechanisms of muscle pain and sensitization.

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