Spinal astrocytes in superficial laminae gate brainstem descending control of mechanosensory hypersensitivity

Journal: Nature Neuroscience

Published: 2020-10-05

DOI: 10.1038/s41593-020-00713-4

Affiliations: 9

Authors: 25

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Research Highlight

Astrocytes play role in pain hypersensitivity

© JUAN GAERTNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

© JUAN GAERTNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

A certain type of astrocyte in the spinal cord can make mice hypersensitive to pain when activated by descending neurons. These astrocytes could thus provide a new target for controlling chronic pain.

Named after their star-like appearance, astrocytes are the most abundant cell type in the central nervous system. They are specialized immune cells that support and nourish neurons. But researchers’ knowledge of the functions of distinct types of astrocytes is still limited.

Now, a team led by researchers from Kyushu University in Japan has found that when activated by descending neurons a previously unknown population of astrocytes in the spinal cord of mice give rise to a hypersensitivity to pain.

This discovery raises the possibility that the efficacy of drugs used to treat chronic pain may be boosted by using noradrenaline to suppress signalling from these astrocytes.

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  1. Nature Neuroscience 23, 1376–1387 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-00713-4
Institutions Share
Kyushu University, Japan 0.70
Gunma University, Japan 0.12
Okayama University, Japan 0.06
Akita University, Japan 0.04
Department of Biomedicine Basel, Switzerland 0.04
ShanghaiTech University, China 0.02
Toho University, Japan 0.02