Glial Cell Activation Useful in Quest for Objective Pain Biomarkers

New research reported online in the January 12 edition of Brain finds that patients with chronic pain show signs of glial activation in brain centers that modulate pain, and show that glial activation is not only a reaction to a pain state but actively contributes to the establishment and/or maintenance of persistent pain. The findings suggest that developing therapeutic approaches that target glia may be prove beneficial to pain management.

The research team imaged the brains of 19 individuals diagnosed with chronic low back pain as well as 25 pain-free healthy volunteers. Microglia activation, as measured by 11C-PRB28 uptake, was higher in the pain patients. The researchers state that evidence of glial involvement in human pain has been very limited until now, and that these observations of glial activation in humans have important potential implications for the development of new therapies based on glial modulation. They may additionally be useful in the identification of objective biomarkers for pain conditions.

Read a news report about the findings here.


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