Ions in the fire: recent ion-channel research and approaches to pain therapy

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 1999 Aug;20(8):337-42. doi: 10.1016/s0165-6147(99)01372-3.


Ion channels form a diverse and sophisticated collection of membrane-bound proteins. They are influenced by many endogenous compounds and physiological stimuli and modulate neuronal activity. It is thus not surprising that they provide attractive targets for the design of novel therapeutics. In this article, recent ion channel research and its relevance to modulation of sensory transmission is assessed. In pain research, specific blockade or activation of ion channels has long been considered a desired route for identification of analgesics. Historically, this has proven difficult to attain due to the incidence of side-effects associated with most ion-channel modulators. The recent discovery of several novel classes of ion channels, each of which has a specific distribution and role in sensory processing and nociception, has provided a plethora of targets for pharmaceutical intervention with the promise of an improved therapeutic index.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / drug effects
  • Calcium Channels / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / drug effects*
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / drug effects
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology
  • Receptors, Purinergic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Purinergic / physiology
  • Research*
  • Sodium Channels / drug effects
  • Sodium Channels / physiology


  • Analgesics
  • Calcium Channels
  • Ion Channels
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Receptors, Purinergic
  • Sodium Channels