Pathological and protective roles of glia in chronic pain

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009 Jan;10(1):23-36. doi: 10.1038/nrn2533.


Glia have emerged as key contributors to pathological and chronic pain mechanisms. On activation, both astrocytes and microglia respond to and release a number of signalling molecules, which have protective and/or pathological functions. Here we review the current understanding of the contribution of glia to pathological pain and neuroprotection, and how the protective, anti-inflammatory actions of glia are being harnessed to develop new drug targets for neuropathic pain control. Given the prevalence of chronic pain and the partial efficacy of current drugs, which exclusively target neuronal mechanisms, new strategies to manipulate neuron-glia interactions in pain processing hold considerable promise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pain / pathology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*