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J Neuroinflammation. 2019 Jul 9;16(1):140. doi: 10.1186/s12974-019-1524-2.

An update on reactive astrocytes in chronic pain.

Author information

1
Department of Anesthesiology, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, 430030, China.
2
Department of Anesthesiology, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, 430030, China. wlyao82@126.com.

Abstract

Chronic pain is a critical clinical problem with an increasing prevalence. However, there are limited effective prevention measures and treatments for chronic pain. Astrocytes are the most abundant glial cells in the central nervous system and play important roles in both physiological and pathological conditions. Over the past few decades, a growing body of evidence indicates that astrocytes are involved in the regulation of chronic pain. Recently, reactive astrocytes were further classified into A1 astrocytes and A2 astrocytes according to their functions. After nerve injury, A1 astrocytes can secrete neurotoxins that induce rapid death of neurons and oligodendrocytes, whereas A2 astrocytes promote neuronal survival and tissue repair. These findings can well explain the dual effects of reactive astrocytes in central nervous injury and diseases. In this review, we will summarise the (1) changes in the morphology and function of astrocytes after noxious stimulation and nerve injury, (2) molecular regulators and signalling mechanisms involved in the activation of astrocytes and chronic pain, (3) the role of spinal and cortical astrocyte activation in chronic pain, and (4) the roles of different subtypes of reactive astrocytes (A1 and A2 phenotypes) in nerve injury that is associated with chronic pain. This review provides updated information on the role of astrocytes in the regulation of chronic pain. In particular, we discuss recent findings about A1 and A2 subtypes of reactive astrocytes and make several suggestions for potential therapeutic targets for chronic pain.

KEYWORDS:

A1 astrocytes; A2 astrocytes; Chronic pain; Cortical astrocytes; Reactive astrocytes

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