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Study shows animals gain relief from chronic nerve pain after stem cell transplantation



Chronic pain from nerve injury is common and often debilitating. Current treatment options for neuropathic pain include physical, cognitive, behavioral, pharmacological, interventional and surgical therapies. Unfortunately, none of these therapies is particularly effective, according to Jianguo Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and director of the Cleveland Clinic Multidisciplinary Pain Medicine Fellowship Program.

A recent study presented by Dr. Cheng in a scientific poster at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine suggests that mesenchymal stem cell transplantation may offer an alternate and promising solution to alleviate neuropathic pain based on results achieved in animal models.

The study, conducted using rats, investigated whether the sources of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and routes of transplantation affect the therapy’s effectiveness in order to translate laboratory findings into clinical application. Researchers isolated and characterized bone-marrow-derived MSCs (BM-MSCs) and adipose-derived MSCs (AD-MSCs) by flow cytometry and functional differentiation. Rats with chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve were treated with either intravenous or intrathecal transplantation of BM-MSCs or AD-MSCs.

The therapeutic effects were evaluated by paw withdrawal thresholds in response to mechanical and thermal stimuli and immunohistochemistry of the sciatic nerve and dorsal root ganglion.

The researchers say that both BM-MSCs and AD-MSCs produced powerful analgesic effects. Either intrathecal transplantation or intravenous MSC transplantation produced significant long-lasting analgesic effects. MSCs substantially decreased the number of injured fibers and restored the expression of CGRP in peptidergic C fibers and IB4 in non-peptidergic C fibers in the sciatic nerve and dorsal root ganglion. MSCs decreased inflammatory cell infiltration at the sciatic nerve injury site and the dorsal root ganglion. A substantial number of MSCs (labeled with dye) were found at the injury site after either intravenous or intrathecal transplantation.

"This novel therapy may be translated to clinical applications to treat many neuropathic pain conditions that afflict millions of Americans," Dr. Cheng said.

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