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Papers of the Week

Papers: 10 Jun 2023 - 16 Jun 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Neurobiology, Neuromodulation

Inflammation/Inflammatory, Musculoskeletal Pain

2023 May 17



Vagus nerve stimulation rescues persistent pain following orthopedic surgery in adult mice.


Wu PY, Caceres AI, Chen J, Sokoloff J, Huang M, Baht GS, Nackley AG, Jordt SE, Terrando N


Postoperative pain is a major clinical problem imposing a significant burden on our patients and society. Up to 57% of patients experience persistent postoperative pain 2 years after orthopedic surgery [49]. Although many studies have contributed to the neurobiological foundation of surgery-induced pain sensitization, we still lack safe and effective therapies to prevent the onset of persistent postoperative pain. We have established a clinically relevant orthopedic trauma model in mice that recapitulates common insults associated with surgery and ensuing complications. Using this model, we have started to characterize how induction of pain signaling contributes to neuropeptides changes in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and sustained neuroinflammation in the spinal cord [62]. Here we have extended the characterization of pain behaviors for >3 months after surgery, describing a persistent deficit in mechanical allodynia in both male and female C57BL/6J mice after surgery. Notably, we have applied a novel minimally invasive bioelectronic approach to percutaneously stimulate the vagus nerve (termed pVNS) [24] and tested its anti-nociceptive effects in this model. Our results show that surgery induced a strong bilateral hind-paw allodynia with a slight decrease in motor coordination. However, treatment with pVNS for 30-minutes at10 Hz weekly for 3 weeks prevented pain behavior compared to naïve controls. pVNS also improved locomotor coordination and bone healing compared to surgery without treatment. In the DRGs, we observed that vagal stimulation fully rescued activation of GFAP positive satellite cells but did not affect microglial activation. Overall, these data provide novel evidence for the use of pVNS to prevent postoperative pain and may inform translational studies to test anti-nociceptive effects in the clinic.