Multiple sclerosis patients with central nervous system pain have high levels of a protein known as nerve growth factor in their cerebrospinal fluid, a study shows.
The research, “Nerve growth factor is elevated in the CSF of patients with multiple sclerosis and central neuropathic pain,” was published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology.
Pain in the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, is common in MS. Estimates of the patients it affects range from 29 to 86 percent of those with the disease.
This type of pain is only partially responsive to drugs, decreasing patients’ daily activities and quality of life. Unfortunately, the cause of central neuropathic pain is not well understood.
Nerve growth factor, or NGF, binds to a receptor that activates genes known to regulate the growth, maintenance, and survival of some nerve cells. The factor is believed to play a role in inflammation and pain in the peripheral nervous system — the part of the system outside the brain and spinal cord.
Recent data has suggested that NGF may also play a role in the development of central nervous system pain.
Interestingly, MS lesions contain higher levels of the receptor that NGF binds to. This prompted Italian researchers to try to determine whether NGF is involved in central nervous system pain in MS.
They analyzed data from 73 MS patients, including 15 with central neuropathic pain. They then compared NGF levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of MS patients experiencing central neuropathic pain with levels of MS patients without pain.
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