Background: Peripheral nerve injury can cause neuroinflammation and neuromodulation that lead to mitochondrial dysfunction and neuronal apoptosis in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and spinal cord, contributing to neuropathic pain and motor dysfunction. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been suggested as a potential therapeutic tool for neuropathic pain and nerve injury. However, the specific cellular and molecular mechanism by which HBOT modulates the development of neuropathic pain and motor dysfunction through mitochondrial protection is still unclear. Methods: Mechanical and thermal allodynia and motor function were measured in rats following sciatic nerve crush (SNC). The HBO treatment (2.5 ATA) was performed 4 h after SNC and twice daily (12 h intervals) for seven consecutive days. To assess mitochondrial function in the spinal cord (L2–L6), high-resolution respirometry was measured on day 7 using the OROBOROS-O2k. In addition, RT-PCR and Immunohistochemistry were performed at the end of the experiment to assess neuroinflammation, neuromodulation, and apoptosis in the DRG (L3–L6) and spinal cord (L2–L6). Results: HBOT during the early phase of the SNC alleviates mechanical and thermal hypersensitivity and motor dysfunction. Moreover, HBOT modulates neuroinflammation, neuromodulation, mitochondrial stress, and apoptosis in the DRG and spinal cord. Thus, we found a significant reduction in the presence of macrophages/microglia and MMP-9 expression, as well as the transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNFa, IL-6, IL-1b) in the DRG and (IL6) in the spinal cord of the SNC group that was treated with HBOT compared to the untreated group. Notable, the overexpression of the TRPV1 channel, which has a high Ca2+ permeability, was reduced along with the apoptosis marker (cleaved-Caspase3) and mitochondrial stress marker (TSPO) in the DRG and spinal cord of the HBOT group. Additionally, HBOT prevents the reduction in mitochondrial respiration, including non-phosphorylation state, ATP-linked respiration, and maximal mitochondrial respiration in the spinal cord after SNC. Conclusion: Mitochondrial dysfunction in peripheral neuropathic pain was found to be mediated by neuroinflammation and neuromodulation. Strikingly, our findings indicate that HBOT during the critical period of the nerve injury modulates the transition from acute to chronic pain via reducing neuroinflammation and protecting mitochondrial function, consequently preventing neuronal apoptosis in the DRG and spinal cord.
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- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)
- Mitochondrial respiration
- Neuropathic pain