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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Jun 2023 - 9 Jun 2023


Human Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Abdominal/Pelvic Pain, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Jun 05

Pharmacol Ther


Inflammation, lipids, and pain in vulvar disease.


Falsetta ML, Maddipati KR, Honn KV


Localized provoked vulvodynia (LPV) affects ~14 million people in the US (9% of women), destroying lives and relationships. LPV is characterized by chronic pain (> 3 months) upon touch to the vulvar vestibule, which surrounds the vaginal opening. Many patients go months or years without a diagnosis. Once diagnosed, the treatments available only manage the symptoms of disease and do not correct the underlying problem. We have focused on elucidating the underlying mechanisms of chronic vulvar pain to speed diagnosis and improve intervention and management. We determined the inflammatory response to microorganisms, even members of the resident microflora, sets off a chain of events that culminates in chronic pain. This agrees with findings from several other groups, which show inflammation is altered in the painful vestibule. The vestibule of patients is acutely sensitive to inflammatory stimuli to the point of being deleterious. Rather than protect against vaginal infection, it causes heightened inflammation that does not resolve, which coincides with alterations in lipid metabolism that favor production of proinflammatory lipids and not pro-resolving lipids. Lipid dysbiosis in turn triggers pain signaling through the transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 4 receptor (TRPV4). Treatment with specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) that foster resolution reduces inflammation in fibroblasts and mice and vulvar sensitivity in mice. SPMs, specifically maresin 1, act on more than one part of the vulvodynia mechanism by limiting inflammation and acutely inhibiting TRPV4 signaling. Therefore, SPMs or other agents that target inflammation and/or TRPV4 signaling could prove effective as new vulvodynia therapies.