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Papers of the Week

Papers: 17 Feb 2024 - 23 Feb 2024

2024 Feb 19

Br J Anaesth


Endoplasmin reticular stress as an emerging therapeutic target for chronic pain: a narrative review.


Kim HS, Lee D, Shen S


Chronic pain is a severely debilitating condition with enormous socioeconomic costs. Current treatment regimens with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, or opioids have been largely unsatisfactory with uncertain benefits or severe long-term side effects. This is mainly because chronic pain has a multifactorial aetiology. Although conventional pain medications can alleviate pain by keeping several dysfunctional pathways under control, they can mask other underlying pathological causes, ultimately worsening nerve pathologies and pain outcome. Recent preclinical studies have shown that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress could be a central hub for triggering multiple molecular cascades involved in the development of chronic pain. Several ER stress inhibitors and unfolded protein response modulators, which have been tested in randomised clinical trials or apprpoved by the US Food and Drug Administration for other chronic diseases, significantly alleviated hyperalgesia in multiple preclinical pain models. Although the role of ER stress in neurodegenerative disorders, metabolic disorders, and cancer has been well established, research on ER stress and chronic pain is still in its infancy. Here, we critically analyse preclinical studies and explore how ER stress can mechanistically act as a central node to drive development and progression of chronic pain. We also discuss therapeutic prospects, benefits, and pitfalls of using ER stress inhibitors and unfolded protein response modulators for managing intractable chronic pain. In the future, targeting ER stress to impact multiple molecular networks might be an attractive therapeutic strategy against chronic pain refractory to steroids, NSAIDs, or opioids. This novel therapeutic strategy could provide solutions for the opioid crisis and public health challenge.