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Keywords:

  • Spinal cord injury;
  • Chronic neuropathic pain;
  • Stem cell transplantation;
  • Neuregulin-1/ErbB signaling

Abstract

Chronic neuropathic pain is a common and debilitating consequence of spinal cord injury (SCI). In a rat contusion injury model, we observed that chronic neuropathic pain is present on day 7 after SCI and persists for the entire 56-day observation period. However, currently available pain therapies are inadequate for SCI-induced neuropathic pain. In this study, we show that spinal transplantation of mouse embryonic stem cell-derived oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) enhances remyelination in the injured spinal cord and reduces SCI-induced chronic neuropathic pain. Moreover, we found that SCI reduces the protein level of neuregulin-1 and ErbB4 in the injured spinal cord and that OPC transplantation enhances the spinal expression of both proteins after SCI. Finally, intrathecal injection of neuregulin-1 small interfering RNA, but not the control nontarget RNA, diminishes OPC transplantation-produced remyelination and reverses the antinociceptive effect of OPC transplantation. Our findings suggest that the transplantation of embryonic stem cell-derived OPCs is an appropriate therapeutic intervention for treatment of SCI-induced chronic neuropathic pain, and that neuregulin-1/ErbB signaling plays an important role in central remyelination under pathological conditions and contributes to the alleviation of such pain. STEM Cells2013;31:83–91