Painful neurotrophins and their role in visceral pain

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Abstract

Beyond their well-known role in embryonic development of the central and peripheral nervous system, neurotrophins, particularly nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, exert an essential role in pain production and sensitization. This has mainly been studied within the framework of somatic pain, and even antibodies (tanezumab and fasinumab) have recently been developed for their use in chronic somatic painful conditions, such as osteoarthritis or low back pain. However, data suggest that neurotrophins also exert an important role in the occurrence of visceral pain and visceral sensitization. Visceral pain is a distressing symptom that prompts many consultations and is typically encountered in both ‘organic’ (generally inflammatory) and ‘functional’ (displaying no obvious structural changes in routine clinical evaluations) disorders of the gut, such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, respectively. The present review provides a summary of neurotrophins as a molecular family and their role in pain in general and addresses recent investigations of the involvement of nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in visceral pain, particularly that associated with inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

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