Astrocytes in chronic pain and itch

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2019 Nov;20(11):667-685. doi: 10.1038/s41583-019-0218-1. Epub 2019 Sep 19.


Astrocytes are critical for maintaining the homeostasis of the CNS. Increasing evidence suggests that a number of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, including chronic pain, may result from astrocyte 'gliopathy'. Indeed, in recent years there has been substantial progress in our understanding of how astrocytes can regulate nociceptive synaptic transmission via neuronal-glial and glial-glial cell interactions, as well as the involvement of spinal and supraspinal astrocytes in the modulation of pain signalling and the maintenance of neuropathic pain. A role of astrocytes in the pathogenesis of chronic itch is also emerging. These developments suggest that targeting the specific pathways that are responsible for astrogliopathy may represent a novel approach to develop therapies for chronic pain and chronic itch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Astrocytes / pathology
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Chronic Pain / metabolism*
  • Chronic Pain / pathology
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / pathology
  • Pruritus / metabolism*
  • Pruritus / pathology
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / pathology