Potassium channels in neuropathic pain: advances, challenges, and emerging ideas

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Abstract

A workshop of the 2015 International Neuropathic Pain Congress was focused on potassium channels to propose emerging ideas on the role of these channels on pain modulation and to determine whether they can become relevant targets for designing novel analgesic compounds. Two kinds of potassium channels were particularly evoked: selected subunits of the voltage-gated potassium (Kv) and of the K2P channel families. In this review, the role of the former is described with a focus first on silent subunits as modulators of Kv and second on the Kv7 subunits. The physiological, pathophysiological, and pharmacological involvement of the K2P in pain modulation is then described. Throughout this review, the role of potassium channels in pain is obvious, which renders them potential targets for innovative analgesics with peripheral and/or central action depending on the channel. Clearly, some preliminary results obtained with known or novel potassium channel openers suggest that they might represent a novel class of analgesics in neuropathic pain or other pathological contexts.

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