Background: Neuropathic pain is common and difficult to treat. Recently a technique was developed to selectively inhibit nociceptive inputs by simultaneously applying two drugs: capsaicin, a transient receptor potential vanilloid receptor-1 channel activator, and QX-314, a lidocaine derivative that intracellularly blocks sodium channels. We used this technique to investigate whether transient receptor potential vanilloid receptor 1-expressing nociceptors contribute to neuropathic pain.
Methods: The rat chronic constriction injury model was used to induce neuropathic pain in order to test the analgesic effects of both peripheral (perisciatic) and central (intrathecal) administration of the QX-314/capsaicin combination. The Hargreaves and von Frey tests were used to monitor evoked pain-like behaviors and visual observations were used to rank spontaneous pain-like behaviors.
Results: Perisciatic injections of the QX-314/capsaicin combination transiently increased the withdrawal thresholds by approximately 3-fold, for mechanical and thermal stimuli in rats (n = 6/group) with nerve injuries suggesting that peripheral transient receptor potential vanilloid receptor 1-expressing nociceptors contribute to neuropathic pain. In contrast, intrathecal administration of the QX-314/capsaicin combination did not alleviate pain-like behaviors (n = 5/group). Surprisingly, intrathecal QX-314 alone (n = 9) or in combination with capsaicin (n = 8) evoked spontaneous pain-like behaviors.
Conclusions: Data from the perisciatic injections suggested that a component of neuropathic pain was mediated by peripheral nociceptive inputs. The role of central nociceptive terminals could not be determined because of the severe side effects of the intrathecal drug combination. We concluded that only peripheral blockade of transient receptor potential vanilloid receptor 1-expressing nociceptive afferents by the QX-314/capsaicin combination was effective at reducing neuropathic allodynia and hyperalgesia.