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Current Molecular Pharmacology


ISSN (Print): 1874-4672
ISSN (Online): 1874-4702

Pharmacologic Intervention in Axonal Excitability: In Vivo Assessment of Nodal Persistent Sodium Currents in Human Neuropathies

Author(s): Satoshi Kuwabara and Sonoko Misawa

Volume 1, Issue 1, 2008

Page: [61 - 67] Pages: 7

DOI: 10.2174/1874467210801010061


Axonal excitability testing can provide new insights into the ionic mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of hyperexcitability of motor and sensory axons in human neuropathies. Threshold tracking was developed in the 1990s to non-invasively measure a number of axonal excitability indices that depend on sodium and potassium channel function, and this makes it possible to monitor the effects of pharmacologic intervention with ion channel modulators. This paper reviews recent advances in ionic-pathophysiological studies in humans. (1) Neuropathic pain or muscle cramp/fasciculation is partly caused by hyperexcitability of the injured axons. The enhanced excitability can result from altered ion channel function; such as an increase in persistent sodium currents. Persistent sodium currents can be reliably estimated using threshold tracking. In peripheral neuropathy, persistent sodium currents usually increase possibly due to over-expression of sodium channels associated with axonal regeneration, and could be responsible for ectopic firings. Administration of sodium channel blockers such as mexiletine, results in marked alleviation of muscle cramping in parallel with a decrease in nodal persistent sodium currents. (2) In diabetic neuropathy, the activation of the polyol pathway mediated by an enzyme, aldose reductase, leads to reduced Na+/K+ pump activity, and intra-axonal sodium accumulation; sodium currents are reduced presumably due to decreased trans-axonal sodium gradient. Aldose reductase inhibitiors improve nodal sodium currents, as well as nerve conduction, and this can be objectively assessed by threshold tracking. Studies of ion-channel pathophysiology in human subjects have recently begun. Investigating ionic mechanisms by monitoring the corresponding ionic currents. is of clinical relevance, because once a specific ionic conductance is identified, pharmacologic blocking or modulation could provide a new therapeutic option.

Keywords: Neuropathic pain, muscle cramp, sodium channel, persistent sodium channel, sodium channel blocker

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