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Papers: 25 May 2024 - 31 May 2024

2024 May 29

Curr Neuropharmacol


The Role of Alpha-7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors in Pain: Potential Therapeutic Implications.


Tao Y, Sun Y, Jiang X, Tao J, Zhang Y


Chronic pain represents a prevalent and costly medical challenge globally. Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), one type of ligand-gated ion channels found extensively in both the central and peripheral nervous systems, have emerged as promising therapeutic targets for chronic pain. Although there are currently no FDA-approved analgesics specifically targeting nAChRs, accumulating preclinical and clinical evidence suggest that selective ligands for alpha 7 (α7) nAChRs show potential for treating chronic pain, boasting a reduced incidence of side effects compared with other nicotinic receptor types. The recent structural resolution of human α7 nAChRs has confirmed their negative association with heightened pain, providing a valuable foundation for the development of targeted medications. This review presents a comprehensive overview, encompassing insights into the roles of α7 nAChRs derived from structural and functional studies, recent advancements in pharmacology, and investigations into their involvement in the pathophysiology of chronic pain. Moreover, the review addresses the variability in analgesic effects based on the type of receptor agonist and highlights the current research limitations. As such, this review offers potential therapeutic approaches for the development of innovative strategies for chronic pain management.