Control of Neonatal Spinal Networks by Nociceptors: A Potential Role for TRP Channel Based Therapies

Sravan Mandadi1, Peter Hong2, Arjun Sunny Dhoopar2, Patrick Whelan1

1Department of Physiology and Pharmacology; Department of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine; Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Canada
2Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Canada


Pediatric spinal cord injury (SCI) often leads to increased nociceptive input resulting in aberrant motor output like tremor and spasticity. Acute plasticity within spinal pain and motor networks following pediatric SCI may result in long-term sensorimotor disabilities. Despite this, pediatric SCI remains poorly understood. Part of the problem lies in the paucity of detailed studies aimed at defining sensorimotor control by nociceptors during development. This review provides an overview of work that highlights afferent control of sensorimotor networks by defined nociceptors in the developing spinal cord. Here, we focus on the well established and widely used neonatal sensorimotor model called sacrocaudal afferent (SCA) pathway. Until recently, the identity of specific subclasses of nociceptive afferents in the SCA pathway controlling developing sensorimotor networks was unknown. We highlight here the use of members of the Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) ion channels and mouse genetics to identify specific subsets of nociceptive afferents in the SCA pathway. In addition, we highlight the use of mouse genetics to map sensorimotor networks during development and potential future applications. A neonatal spinal cord model of central neuropathic pain via a defined set of nociceptors is presented as a probe into potential therapeutic avenues in neonatal SCI. Finally, knowledge translation from neonatal basic research to the pediatric population in the clinic is described. In conclusion, studies in neonatal models may lead to therapeutic strategies and pharmaceuticals for chronic pain and motor dysfunction after SCI during development.

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J Pharm Pharm Sci, 16 (2): 313-320, 2013

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