Review abstract

Focus on Glia and Disease

Nature Neuroscience 10, 1361 - 1368 (2007)
Published online: 26 October 2007 | doi:10.1038/nn1992

The neuropathic pain triad: neurons, immune cells and glia

Joachim Scholz1 & Clifford J Woolf1

Nociceptive pain results from the detection of intense or noxious stimuli by specialized high-threshold sensory neurons (nociceptors), a transfer of action potentials to the spinal cord, and onward transmission of the warning signal to the brain. In contrast, clinical pain such as pain after nerve injury (neuropathic pain) is characterized by pain in the absence of a stimulus and reduced nociceptive thresholds so that normally innocuous stimuli produce pain. The development of neuropathic pain involves not only neuronal pathways, but also Schwann cells, satellite cells in the dorsal root ganglia, components of the peripheral immune system, spinal microglia and astrocytes. As we increasingly appreciate that neuropathic pain has many features of a neuroimmune disorder, immunosuppression and blockade of the reciprocal signaling pathways between neuronal and non-neuronal cells offer new opportunities for disease modification and more successful management of pain.

  1. Neural Plasticity Research Group, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 149 13th Street, Room 4309, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.

Correspondence to: Joachim Scholz1 e-mail:


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