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Papers of the Week

Papers: 22 Jul 2023 - 28 Jul 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology, Sex Differences

Itch, Neuropathic Pain

2023 Jul 21

J Pain


Editor's Pick

Pain and itch processing in aged mice.


Braz JM, Hamel K, Craik V, Rodriguez-Rosado S, Bhardwaj K, Jewell M, Bieri G, Villeda SA, Basbaum AI


Most reports agree that aging negatively impacts pain processing and that the prevalence of chronic pain increases significantly with age. To improve current therapies, it is critical that aged animals be included in preclinical studies. Here we compared sensitivities to pain and itch-provoking stimuli in naïve and injured young and aged mice. Surprisingly, we found that in the absence of injury, aged male and female mice are significantly less responsive to mechanical stimuli and, in females, also to noxious thermal (heat) stimuli. In both older male and female mice, compared to younger (6 month-old mice), we also recorded reduced pruritogen-evoked scratching. On the other hand, after nerve injury, aged mice nevertheless developed significant mechanical hypersensitivity. Interestingly, however, and in contrast to young mice, aged mice developed both ipsilateral and contralateral post-injury mechanical allodynia. In a parallel immunohistochemical analysis of microglial and astrocyte markers, we found that the ipsilateral to contralateral ratio of nerve injury-induced expression decreased with age. That observation is consistent with our finding of contralateral hypersensitivity after nerve injury in the aged, but not the young mice. We conclude that aging has opposite effects on baseline vs post injury pain and itch processing. PERSPECTIVE: Aged male and female mice (22-24 months) are less sensitive to mechanical, thermal (heat) and itch-provoking stimuli than are younger mice (6 months).