Researchers Friedenstein and his collaborators first described MSCsor mesenchymal stem cells as cells that could differentiate into other lineages and were adherent to plastic. They have generated much interest among researchers to explore the use of these cells for treating diseases on account of their ease of isolation from a variety of tissues such as bone marrow, adipose tissue, dental tissue, umbilical cord, cord blood and even menstrual blood. They also show the property of homing and the secretion of healing factors such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A, fibroblast growth factor and nerve growth factor at the site of injury or disease termed as the paracrine effect.
A leading cause of disability and disease globally is “pain”, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, 2016. The most common type of pain is recurrent tension-type headaches that affect1.9 billion people across the globe! The major causes of disability due to pain include low back and neck pain (Mills et al, 2019).
Pain is associated with biological, psychological and social factors that have multiple implications ranging from absence of sleep, disturbed psychological moods, low physical activities, affected social bonding and leisure activities. Additional challenges include the inability to attend to job duties and the cost involved in treatment. Chronic pain is associated with neuropathies: the usual treatment includes antidepressants, antiepileptics and opioids that are associated with challenges such as limited effectiveness and substance abuse. This dictates the requirement for new treatment approaches: this is where MSCs enter the scene.
The use of MSCs to treat chemotherapy-induced pain was first reported by CesareMannelli and team (2019) where rat adipose-derived stem cells were administered to neuropathic pain in rats induced by the drug oxaliplatin. Various symptoms such as hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain) and allodynia (pain due to a stimulus that usually does not cause pain) were ameliorated by the stem cell treatment showing the promise of using MSCs for pain management.
Though there are many treatment approaches for neuropathic pain (NP), described as abnormal sensory symptoms associated with nutritional disorders or metabolic disorders or trauma, the response of patients to treatments is still a big hurdle! A recent team of scientists reported the promise of using multipotent human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) for neuropathic pain. C57/BL6 mice with chronic post-ischemia pain received the stem cells that resulted in improvement in mechanical allodynia and lowered expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) that shows the promise of using stem cells for treating this” painful” condition.
The multiple advantages of using MSCs listed above along with their promise in relieving pain warrants further exploration to using these regenerative cells to treat pain that affects so many people across the globe.
Trallori, E., Ghelardini, C., & Di CesareMannelli, L. (2019).Mesenchymal stem cells, implications for pain therapy. Neural regeneration research, 14(11), 1915–1916.https://doi.org/10.4103/1673-5374.259615.
Mills, S., Nicolson, K. P., & Smith, B. H. (2019). Chronic pain: a review of its epidemiology and associated factors in population-based studies. British journal of anaesthesia, 123(2), e273–e283.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bja.2019.03.023
Yoo, S. H., Lee, S. H., Lee, S., Park, J. H., Lee, S., Jin, H., & Park, H. J. (2020).The effect of human mesenchymal stem cell injection on pain behavior in chronic post-ischemia pain mice. The Korean journal of pain, 33(1), 23–29.https://doi.org/10.3344/kjp.2020.33.1.23