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Papers of the Week

Papers: 27 Nov 2021 - 3 Dec 2021

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2021 Nov 29


The PPARγ agonist pioglitazone produces a female-predominant inhibition of hyperalgesia associated with surgical incision, peripheral nerve injury, and painful diabetic neuropathy.


Pioglitazone, an agonist at peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma, is FDA-approved for the treatment of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes. Numerous studies in male rodents suggest that pioglitazone inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, but few included female subjects. To address this gap, we compared the effects of pioglitazone in both sexes in the intraplantar methylglyoxal model (MG) model of chemical pain and painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN), the plantar incision model (PIM) of postoperative pain, the spared nerve injury (SNI) model of traumatic nerve injury, and the ZDF rat and db/db mouse models of PDN. We administered pioglitazone by one-time intrathecal or intraperitoneal injection or by adding it to chow for 6 weeks, followed by measurement of hypersensitivity to non-noxious mechanical, noxious mechanical, heat, and/or cold stimuli. In all mouse models, injection of pioglitazone decreased pain-like behaviors with greater potency and/or efficacy in females as compared to males: heat and mechanical hypersensitivity in the MG model (0.1-10 mg/kg); mechanical hypersensitivity in the PIM model (10 μg); mechanical and cold hypersensitivity in the SNI model (100 mg/kg); and heat hypersensitivity in the db/db model (100 mg/kg). Furthermore, co-administration of low doses of morphine (1 mg/kg) and pioglitazone (10 mg/kg) decreased SNI-induced mechanical and cold hypersensitivity in female but not male mice. In the ZDF rat, pioglitazone (100 mg/kg) decreased heat and mechanical hypersensitivity with no sex difference. In the db/db model, pioglitazone had no effect when given into chow for 6 weeks at 0.3, 3 or 30 mg/kg doses. We conclude that females exhibit greater anti-hyperalgesic responses to pioglitazone in mouse models of chemical-induced nociception, postsurgical pain, neuropathic pain, and PDN. These findings set the stage for clinical trials to determine whether pioglitazone has analgesic properties across a broad spectrum of chronic pain conditions, particularly in women.