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Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2017 Jul;21(7):695-703. doi: 10.1080/14728222.2017.1328057. Epub 2017 May 16.

Targeting dorsal root ganglia and primary sensory neurons for the treatment of chronic pain.

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a Pain Research Center, Department of Anesthesiology , University of Cincinnati Medical Center , Cincinnati , OH , USA.
b Department of Anesthesiology , Duke University Medical Center , Durham , NC , USA.
c Department of Anesthesiology, E-Da Hospital, School of Medicine , I-Shou University , Kaohsiung , Taiwan.
d Department of Neurobiology , Duke University Medical Center , Durham , NC , USA.


Currently the treatment of chronic pain is inadequate and compromised by debilitating central nervous system side effects. Here we discuss new therapeutic strategies that target dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) in the peripheral nervous system for a better and safer treatment of chronic pain. Areas covered: The DRGs contain the cell bodies of primary sensory neurons including nociceptive neurons. After painful injuries, primary sensory neurons demonstrate maladaptive molecular changes in DRG cell bodies and in their axons. These changes result in hypersensitivity and hyperexcitability of sensory neurons (peripheral sensitization) and are crucial for the onset and maintenance of chronic pain. We discuss the following new strategies to target DRGs and primary sensory neurons as a means of alleviating chronic pain and minimizing side effects: inhibition of sensory neuron-expressing ion channels such as TRPA1, TRPV1, and Nav1.7, selective blockade of C- and Aβ-afferent fibers, gene therapy, and implantation of bone marrow stem cells. Expert opinion: These peripheral pharmacological treatments, as well as gene and cell therapies, aimed at DRG tissues and primary sensory neurons can offer better and safer treatments for inflammatory, neuropathic, cancer, and other chronic pain states.


Chronic pain; dorsal root ganglia; pain therapy; sensory neurons

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