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Papers of the Week

Papers: 12 Jun 2021 - 18 Jun 2021


Front Psychiatry


Reactive Astrocytes: Critical Players in the Development of Chronic Pain.


Tang J, Bair M, Descalzi G
Front Psychiatry. 2021; 12:682056.
PMID: 34122194.


Chronic pain is associated with long term plasticity of nociceptive pathways in the central nervous system. Astrocytes can profoundly affect synaptic function and increasing evidence has highlighted how altered astrocyte activity may contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic pain. In response to injury, astrocytes undergo a shift in form and function known as reactive astrogliosis, which affects their release of cytokines and gliotransmitters. These neuromodulatory substances have been implicated in driving the persistent changes in central nociceptive activity. Astrocytes also release lactate which neurons can use to produce energy during synaptic plasticity. Furthermore, recent research has provided insight into lactate's emerging role as a signaling molecule in the central nervous system, which may be involved in directly modulating neuronal and astrocytic activity. In this review, we present evidence for the involvement of astrocyte-derived tumor necrosis factor alpha in pain-associated plasticity, in addition to research suggesting the potential involvement of gliotransmitters D-serine and adenosine-5'-triphosphate. We also discuss work implicating astrocyte-neuron metabolic coupling, and the possible role of lactate, which has been sparsely studied in the context of chronic pain, in supporting pathological changes in central nociceptive activity.