Proteomic Modulation in the Dorsal Spinal Cord Following Spinal Cord Stimulation Therapy in an In Vivo Neuropathic Pain Model

Neuromodulation. 2021 Jan;24(1):22-32. doi: 10.1111/ner.13103. Epub 2020 Mar 10.

Abstract

Objectives: Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) provides relief for patients suffering from chronic neuropathic pain although its mechanism may not be as dependent on electrical interference as classically considered. Recent evidence has been growing regarding molecular changes that are induced by SCS as being a key player in reversing the pain process. Here, we observed the effect of SCS on altering protein expression in spinal cord tissue using a proteomic analysis approach.

Methods: A microlead was epidurally implanted following induction of an animal neuropathic pain model. After the model was established, stimulation was applied for 72 hours continuously followed by tissue collection and proteomic analysis via tandem mass spectroscopy. Identified proteins were run through online data bases for protein identification and classification of biological processes.

Results: A significant improvement in mechanical sensitivity was observed following 48 hours of SCS therapy. Proteomic analysis identified 5840 proteins, of which 155 were significantly affected by SCS. Gene ontology data bases indicated that a significant number of proteins were associated to stress response, oxidation/reduction, or extracellular matrix pathways. Additionally, many of the proteins identified also play a role in neuron-glial interactions and are involved in nociception.

Conclusions: The development of an injury unbalances the proteome of the local neural tissue, neurons, and glial cells, and shifts the proteomic profile to a pain producing state. This study demonstrates the reversal of the injury-induced proteomic state by applying conventional SCS therapy. Additional studies looking at variations in electrical parameters are needed to optimize SCS.

Keywords: Low-frequency electrical stimulation; neuropathic pain; protein expression; proteomics; spared nerve injury model; spinal cord stimulation; tandem mass spectrometry.