Association Between Neurotrophic Factor Expression and Pain-Related Behavior Induced by Nucleus Pulposus Applied to Rat Nerve Root

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Abstract

Study Design.

An experimental animal study.

Objective.

To investigate the relationship between pain-related behavior and the expression of neurotrophic factors in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and spinal cord (SC) using a nucleus pulposus (NP) rat model.

Summary of Background Data.

Neurotrophic factors are released from activated glial cells and are associated with pain-related behavior. Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a neurotrophic factor that is induced by inflammation.

Methods.

Rats were divided into an NP group (n = 94) and a sham-operated group (n = 46). NP harvested from the tail was applied to the left L5 DRG. Rats in the NP group were then divided into five subgroups: one non-treatment and four treatment groups. In the treatment groups, a dose of anti-NGF antibody or phosphate-buffered saline was administered into the DRG. Behavioral testing was performed to investigate the mechanical withdrawal threshold of the left hind paw for all groups. Immunohistochemical localization of NGF, phosphorylated p38 (p38), and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the DRGs and SCs was performed, and the numbers of immunoreactive (IR) cells were counted.

Results.

The withdrawal threshold in the nontreatment NP group was significantly decreased for 35 days, and that of the middle- and high-dose treatment rats was significantly higher than the phosphate-buffered saline group values. In the DRG, NGF-IR, p38-IR, and BDNF-IR cells were increased for days 21. In the SC, BDNF-IR, and p38-IR cells were increased from days 7 to 21.

Conclusion.

In the DRG, NGF expression increased, mechanical thresholds were reduced, and p38 and BDNF expression was increased in the NP group. p38 and BDNF expression was increased in SC neurons during the same period. Inhibition of NGF may be a potential treatment for neuropathic pain due to lumbar disc herniation.

Conclusion.

Level of Evidence: 5

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