Cells: Glial Cells & Pain

Posted by Christa W. on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What are Glial cells?

According to About.com “Glial cells are non-neural cells that perform “housekeeper” functions such as clearing out debris and excess materials. Glial cells support neurons by providing support and nutrition. There are several different types of glial cells: astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, ependymal cells, radial glial, satellite cells and schwann cells. It is estimated that there are 10 to 50 times more glial cells than there are neurons in the brain.”

According to Dr. Linda R. Watkins in her speech from 50th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society she states that Glial Cells are very important in the creation and maintenance of pathological pain states.

What is Pathological Pain?

Chapman and Stillman (1996) defined pathological pain as “severe persisting pain or moderate pain of long duration that disrupts sleep and normal living, ceases to serve a protective function, and instead degrades health and functional capability..”

Sounds a lot like RSD doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it make sense that something is wrong with our Glial cells if they are the ones that maintain our State of Pain?
They are after all the Immune system of our brain. If our brain is not healthy then how is it supposed to support the rest of our body.

When there is something wrong with our brain, say an infection or an injury even on the small scale, our brain’s immune response is triggered. The Glial cells rush to the site of the infection or injury and release a chemical called Cytokines. These Cytokines cause the Neurons to become so excited and in some cases are a direct cause of some seizures

Currently drugs are available on the market that suppress the immune system temporarily. Even more promising are drugs currently under Food and Drug Administration trials for human use that cross the blood-brain barrier, which in simple terms means patients can take a pill which will effectively suppress the glial cells and stop them from reacting.

Although these medicines are meant to stop patients from getting Chronic Epilepsy, it would make sense that if taken within the first 3-4 months of having RSD/CRPS it could stop the over reaction of the Glial cells causing a unending loop of pain.

This is only a uneducated theory. Yet there are new research and studies coming out all the time, such as LONDON (Reuters)which says “Researchers from the University of Liverpool said a dose of a blood product called intravenous immunoglobin (IVIG) significantly reduced pain in almost half of patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CPRS)”

If they are treating the main immune system which is attached to the Glial Cells and the brain’s Immune system it makes sense that this is no coincidence. Something is wrong with the system that is suppose to reprogram, fix, and maintain the neurons and nerves that are causing us to be in pain.

I for one would like to see these new medicines to stop chronic epilepsy used on people with chronic pain. Maybe it will allow the Glial cells to regroup, heal, and stop causing more chronic and widespread panic within our neurons.

There is always hope for the future. Never give up and always research your options.

*Disclaimer* We do not claim to be medical professionals. Always consult a medical professional before starting or going off any kind of medicine. This is an article written by a fellow chronic pain patient after hours of pain-staking research.

Bibliography

 May 25th, 2011
http://psychology.about.com/od/gindex/g/glialcells.htm

MAURY M. BREECHER
Glial Cells and Pain Control
50th Annual Meeting of the American Headache Society  Boston, Massachusetts June 26-29, 2008
http://www.clinicalneurologynewsnetwork.com/conferences/ahs/Watkins_AHS_7_15_08.html

Greg Swenson, CU-Boulder media relations,
CU-Boulder Study Finds Brain’s Immune System May Cause Chronic Seizures (July 6, 2009)
http://www.colorado.edu/news/r/077cb274bc382be280c52279a810aec0.html

Author Unknown Last Updated: 2010-02-02 8:00:41 -0400 (Reuters Health)
Immune treatment helps chronic pain patients
http://www.readinghospital.org/wtn/Page.asp?PageID=WTN002844

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