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Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2011 May;4(3):379-88.

Targeting N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors for treatment of neuropathic pain.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Unit 110, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Neuropathic pain remains a major clinical problem and a therapeutic challenge because existing analgesics are often ineffective and can cause serious side effects. Increased N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) activity contributes to central sensitization in certain types of neuropathic pain. NMDAR antagonists can reduce hyperalgesia and allodynia in animal models of neuropathic pain induced by nerve injury and diabetic neuropathy. Clinically used NMDAR antagonists, such as ketamine and dextromethorphan, are generally effective in patients with neuropathic pain, such as complex regional pain syndrome and painful diabetic neuropathy. However, patients with postherpetic neuralgia respond poorly to NMDAR antagonists. Recent studies on identifying NMDAR-interacting proteins and molecular mechanisms of increased NMDAR activity in neuropathic pain could facilitate the development of new drugs to attenuate abnormal NMDAR activity with minimal impairment of the physiological function of NMDARs. Combining NMDAR antagonists with other analgesics could also lead to better management of neuropathic pain without causing serious side effects.


NMDA receptors; complex regional pain syndrome; diabetic neuropathy; neuropathic pain; spinal cord; synaptic plasticity; synaptic transmission

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