Mechanisms of pain in sickle cell disease
Cyril, Asha Caroline
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Objectives: The hallmark of sickle cell disease (SCD) is acute and chronic pain, and the pain dominates the clinical characteristics of SCD patients. Although pharmacological treatments of SCD targeting the disease mechanisms have been improved, many SCD patients suffer from pain. To overcome the pain of the disease, there have been renewed requirements to understand the novel molecular mechanisms of the pain in SCD. Methods: We concisely summarized the molecular mechanisms of SCD-related acute and chronic pain, focusing on potential drug targets to treat pain. Results: Acute pain of SCD is caused by vaso-occulusive crisis (VOC), impaired oxygen supply or infarction-reperfusion tissue injuries. In VOC, inflammatory cytokines include tryptase activate nociceptors and transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1. In tissue injury, the secondary inflammatory response is triggered and causes further tissue injuries. Tissue injury generates cytokines and pain mediators including bradykinin, and they activate nociceptive afferent nerves and trigger pain. The main causes of chronic pain are from extended hyperalgesia after a VOC and central sensitization. Neuropathic pain could be due to central or peripheral nerve injury, and protein kinase C might be associated with the pain. In central sensitization, neuroplasticity in the brain and the activation of glial cells may be related with the pain. Discussion: In this review, we summarized the molecular mechanisms of SCD-related acute and chronic pain. The novel treatments targeting the disease mechanisms would interrupt complications of SCD and reduce the pain of the SCD patients.