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Papers of the Week

Papers: 10 Feb 2024 - 16 Feb 2024

2024 Feb 01

Int J Mol Sci




Annulus Fibrosus Injury Induces Acute Neuroinflammation and Chronic Glial Response in Dorsal Root Ganglion and Spinal Cord-An In Vivo Rat Discogenic Pain Model.


Lai A, Iliff D, Zaheer K, Gansau J, Laudier DM, Zachariou V, Iatridis JC


Chronic painful intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration (i.e., discogenic pain) is a major source of global disability needing improved knowledge on multiple-tissue interactions and how they progress in order improve treatment strategies. This study used an in vivo rat annulus fibrosus (AF) injury-driven discogenic pain model to investigate the acute and chronic changes in IVD degeneration and spinal inflammation, as well as sensitization, inflammation, and remodeling in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and spinal cord (SC) dorsal horn. AF injury induced moderate IVD degeneration with acute and broad spinal inflammation that progressed to DRG to SC changes within days and weeks, respectively. Specifically, AF injury elevated macrophages in the spine (CD68) and DRGs (Iba1) that peaked at 3 days post-injury, and increased microglia (Iba1) in SC that peaked at 2 weeks post-injury. AF injury also triggered glial responses with elevated GFAP in DRGs and SC at least 8 weeks post-injury. Spinal CD68 and SC neuropeptide Substance P both remained elevated at 8 weeks, suggesting that slow and incomplete IVD healing provides a chronic source of inflammation with continued SC sensitization. We conclude that AF injury-driven IVD degeneration induces acute spinal, DRG, and SC inflammatory crosstalk with sustained glial responses in both DRGs and SC, leading to chronic SC sensitization and neural plasticity. The known association of these markers with neuropathic pain suggests that therapeutic strategies for discogenic pain need to target both spinal and nervous systems, with early strategies managing acute inflammatory processes, and late strategies targeting chronic IVD inflammation, SC sensitization, and remodeling.