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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Nov 2020 - 27 Nov 2020

Animal Studies

2020 Jan-Dec

Mol Pain


Age-related gene expression changes in lumbar spinal cord: Implications for neuropathic pain.


Mayhew JA, Cummins MJ, Cresswell ET, Callister RJ, Smith DW, Graham BA
Mol Pain. 2020 Jan-Dec; 16:1744806920971914.
PMID: 33241748.


Clinically, pain has an uneven incidence throughout lifespan and impacts more on the elderly. In contrast, preclinical models of pathological pain have typically used juvenile or young adult animals to highlight the involvement of glial populations, proinflammatory cytokines, and chemokines in the onset and maintenance of pathological signalling in the spinal dorsal horn. The potential impact of this mismatch is also complicated by the growing appreciation that the aged central nervous system exists in a state of chronic inflammation because of enhanced proinflammatory cytokine/chemokine signalling and glial activation. To address this issue, we investigated the impact of aging on the expression of genes that have been associated with neuropathic pain, glial signalling, neurotransmission and neuroinflammation. We used qRT-PCR to quantify gene expression and focussed on the dorsal horn of the spinal cord as this is an important perturbation site in neuropathic pain. To control for global vs region-specific age-related changes in gene expression, the ventral half of the spinal cord was examined. Our results show that expression of proinflammatory chemokines, pattern recognition receptors, and neurotransmitter system components was significantly altered in aged (24-32 months) versus young mice (2-4 months). Notably, the magnitude and direction of these changes were spinal-cord region dependent. For example, expression of the chemokine, Cxcl13, increased 119-fold in dorsal spinal cord, but only 2-fold in the ventral spinal cord of old versus young mice. Therefore, we propose the dorsal spinal cord of old animals is subject to region-specific alterations that prime circuits for the development of pathological pain, potentially in the absence of the peripheral triggers normally associated with these conditions.