Microglial role in the development of chronic pain

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Purpose of review

The review aims to present the latest research into microglia and their role in pain.

Recent findings

Microglia affect sex and age-dependent differences in pain. The various microglial phenotypes make their involvement in pain more complex but provide more potential as pain modulators.


Glial cells, composed of microglia, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes, outnumber neurons in the central nervous system. The crosstalk between these cells and neurons is now established as participating in the development of chronic pain. There has been a great advance in the description of microglia reactivity from pro to anti-inflammatory phenotypes. The modulation of these phenotypes could be a potential target for pain therapy. Recently, different microglial reactivity between man and woman and between neonates and adults, in response to nerve injury were described, which could explain some of the sex differences in pain sensitivity and the absence of neuropathic pain development in neonates. Clinical trials using microglia as a target have been carried out in various neurological diseases and pain, with limited efficacy in the latter, but there are nonetheless, indications that with some improvement in study strategies microglia could be a future target for pain control.

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