A Group of Cells in the Spinal Cord
Astrocytes, a star-shaped glial cell of the central nervous system, carry general sensory information to the brain, information such as pressure, pain, and heat. Researchers in Japan have discovered a unique population of spinal cord astrocytes, found in gray matter outer layers near the back of the spinal cord referred to as the superficial laminae of the spinal dorsal horn. These astrocytes have a role in producing pain hypersensitivity.
Makoto Tsuda, professor at Kyushu University's Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, stated “The discovery of this new population of astrocytes reveals a new role of descending LC-NAergic neurons in facilitating spinal pain transmission.” Suppression of the signaling of these astrocytes could increase the effect of chronic pain drugs. Tsuda continued, "Although we still need more studies with different drugs, this astrocyte population appears to be a very promising target for enhancing the therapeutic potential of drugs for chronic pain." The research is reported in Nature Neuroscience and states, “...in a model of chronic pain...astrocytes were critical regulators for determining an analgesic effect of duloxetine. Our findings identify a superficial SDH-selective astrocyte population that gates descending noradrenergic control of mechanosensory behavior.”
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