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Over the last decade, a series of studies has demonstrated that glia in the central nervous system play roles in many aspects of neuronal functioning including pain processing. Peripheral tissue damage or inflammation initiates signals that alter the function of the glial cells (microglia and astrocytes in particular), which in turn release factors that regulate nociceptive neuronal excitability. Like immune cells, these glial cells not only react at sites of central and/or peripheral nervous system damage but also exert their action at remote sites from the focus of injury or disease. As well as extensive evidence of microglial involvement in various pain states, there is also documentation that astrocytes are involved, sometimes seemingly playing a more dominant role than microglia. The interactions between astrocytes, microglia and neurons are now recognized as fundamental mechanisms underlying acute and chronic pain states. This review focuses on recent advances in understanding of the role of astrocytes in pain states.


C-Y Chiang, B J Sessle, J O Dostrovsky. Role of astrocytes in pain. Neurochemical research. 2012 Nov;37(11):2419-31

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PMID: 22638776

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