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Papers: 30 Jan 2021 - 5 Feb 2021

2021 Feb

Exp Biol Med (Maywood)



Nitric oxide and sickle cell disease-Is there a painful connection?


Hallmark L, Almeida L E, Kamimura S, Smith M, Quezado ZMN
Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2021 Feb; 246(3):332-341.
PMID: 33517776.


Sickle cell disease is the most common hemoglobinopathy and affects millions worldwide. The disease is associated with severe organ dysfunction, acute and chronic pain, and significantly decreased life expectancy. The large body of work demonstrating that hemolysis results in rapid consumption of the endogenous vasodilator nitric oxide, decreased nitric oxide production, and promotion of vaso-occlusion provides the basis for the hypothesis that nitric oxide bioavailability is reduced in sickle cell disease and that this deficit plays a role in sickle cell disease pain. Despite initial promising results, large clinical trials using strategies to increase nitric oxide bioavailability in sickle cell disease patients yielded no significant change in duration or frequency of acute pain crises. Further, recent investigations showed that sickle cell disease patients and mouse models have elevated baseline levels of blood nitrite, a reservoir for nitric oxide formation and a product of nitric oxide metabolism, regardless of pain phenotype. These conflicting results challenge the hypotheses that nitric oxide bioavailability is decreased and that it plays a significant role in the pathogenesis in sickle cell disease acute pain crises. Conversely, a large body of work demonstrates that nitric oxide, as a neurotransmitter, has a complex role in pain neurobiology, contributes to the development of central sensitization, and can mediate hyperalgesia in inflammatory and neuropathic pain. These results support an alternative hypothesis: one proposing that altered nitric oxide signaling may contribute to the development of neuropathic and/or inflammatory pain in sickle cell disease through its role as a neurotransmitter.