Pain is the leading cause for hospitalization in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). While the characteristics of SCD pain can vary widely between patients and between phases of the disease (e.g. vasoocclusive crisis pain vs. chronic pain), similar neuronal mechanisms likely underlie the various aspects of nociceptive processing. In the peripheral nervous system, small unmyelinated C fibers and lightly-myelinated Aδ fibers detect and transmit noxious stimuli. Both classes of neurons express members of the transient receptor potential (TRP) family, a group of ligand gated ion-channels that are activated by thermal, chemical, and mechanical stimuli. Promiscuous TRP channel family members are activated by a wide range of stimuli, many of which are dysregulated in patients with SCD and transgenic SCD mouse models. In 2011, our lab published the first report of TRP channel contributions to rodent SCD pain. Since that time, additional basic and clinical research efforts have investigated the genetic and biochemical status of TRP channels in SCD, placing particular focus on TRPV1. This review will discuss these advances and highlight the clinical SCD presentations that have not yet been studied, but which may be mediated by TRP channel activity.
Keywords: Pain; Sickle cell disease; TRPA1; TRPM8; TRPV1.
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