Substance P receptor (SPR)-expressing spinal neurons were ablated with the selective cytotoxin substance P-saporin. Loss of these neurons resulted in a reduction of thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia associated with persistent neuropathic and inflammatory pain states. This loss appeared to be permanent. Responses to mildly painful stimuli and morphine analgesia were unaffected by this treatment. These results identify a target for treating persistent pain and suggest that the small population of SPR- expressing neurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord plays a pivotal role in the generation and maintenance of chronic neuropathic and inflammatory pain.
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