• Adult stem cells;
  • Bone marrow stromal cells;
  • Cellular therapy;
  • Neuropathy;
  • Rat model;
  • Stem cell transplantation


Chronic pain conditions are difficult to treat and are major health problems. Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) have generated considerable interest as a candidate for cell-based therapy. BMSCs are readily accessible and are easy to isolate and expand ex vivo. Clinical studies show that direct injection of BMSCs does not produce unwanted side effects and is well tolerated and safe. Here, we show that a single systemic (intravenous) or local injection (into the lesion site) of rat primary BMSCs reversed pain hypersensitivity in rats after injury and that the effect lasted until the conclusion of the study at 22 weeks. The pain hypersensitivity was rekindled by naloxone hydrochloride, an opioid receptor antagonist that acts peripherally and centrally, when tested at 1–5 weeks after BMSC infusion. In contrast, naloxone methiodide, a peripherally acting opioid receptor antagonist, only rekindled hyperalgesia in the first 3 weeks of BMSC treatment. Focal downregulation of brainstem mu opioid receptors by RNA interference (RNAi) reversed the effect of BMSCs, when RNAi was introduced at 5- but not 1-week after BMSC transplantation. Thus, BMSCs produced long-term relief of pain and this effect involved activation of peripheral and central opioid receptors in distinct time domains. The findings prompt studies to elucidate the cellular mechanisms of the BMSC-induced pain relieving effect and translate these observations into clinical settings. STEM CELLS 2011;29:1294–1303