Antisense oligonucleotides selectively suppress target RNA in nociceptive neurons of the pain system and can ameliorate mechanical pain

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Abstract

There is an urgent need for better treatments for chronic pain, which affects more than 1 billion people worldwide. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) have proven successful in treating children with spinal muscular atrophy, a severe infantile neurological disorder, and several ASOs are currently being tested in clinical trials for various neurological disorders. Here, we characterize the pharmacodynamic activity of ASOs in spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia (DRG), key tissues for pain signaling. We demonstrate that activity of ASOs lasts up to 2 months after a single intrathecal bolus dose. Interestingly, comparison of subcutaneous, intracerebroventricular, and intrathecal administration shows that DRGs are targetable by systemic and central delivery of ASOs, while target reduction in the spinal cord is achieved only after direct central delivery. Upon detailed characterization of ASO activity in individual cell populations in DRG, we observe robust target suppression in all neuronal populations, thereby establishing that ASOs are effective in the cell populations involved in pain propagation. Furthermore, we confirm that ASOs are selective and do not modulate basal pain sensation. We also demonstrate that ASOs targeting the sodium channel Nav1.7 induce sustained analgesia up to 4 weeks. Taken together, our findings support the idea that ASOs possess the required pharmacodynamic properties, along with a long duration of action beneficial for treating pain.

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