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Papers of the Week

Papers: 13 May 2023 - 19 May 2023


Molecular/Cellular, Pharmacology/Drug Development


2023 Apr 26

J Neurosci Res


Microglial inflammation modulates opioid analgesic tolerance.


Pahan P, Xie JY


As we all know, opioids are the drugs of choice for treating severe pain. However, very often, opioid use leads to tolerance, dependence, and hyperalgesia. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms underlying opioid tolerance and designing strategies for increasing the efficacy of opioids in chronic pain are important areas of research. Microglia are brain macrophages that remove debris and dead cells from the brain and participate in immune defense of the central nervous system during an insult or injury. However, recent studies indicate that microglial activation and generation of proinflammatory molecules (e.g., cytokines, nitric oxide, eicosanoids, etc.) in the brain may contribute to opioid tolerance and other side effects of opioid use. In this review, we will summarize the evidence and possible mechanisms by which proinflammatory molecules produced by activated microglia may antagonize the analgesic effect induced by opioids, and thus, lead to opioid tolerance. We will also delineate specific examples of studies that suggest therapeutic targets to counteract the development of tolerance clinically using suppressors of microglial inflammation.