Recent research conducted in the laboratory of Silvia Marinelli at the European Brain Research Institute (EBRI), has been published in Nature Communications (Marrone MC, Morabito A, et al Nature Communications 2017 May 10;8:15292). The team has demonstrated for the first time how the TRPV1 channel, a key component for pain and inflammation in the sensory system, is selectively and functionally expressed in microglial cells – the primary immune cells of the brain. This strategic distribution allows TRPV1 to act as a detector and modulator of brain inflammation. Furthermore, the same study revealed how in chronic pain TRPV1 is functionally expressed also in cortical pyramidal neurons. In this area TRPV1 activation directly modulates the excitability of these neurons, whose alteration is a hallmark of chronic pain. On final note, this study suggests that future strategies aimed at imaging TRPV1 cellular expression and distribution may provide differential diagnostic tools for pathologies associated with an inflammatory brain component such as psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
This research has been performed in collaboration with the Santa Lucia Foundation, the Italian National Research Council (CNR), the University of Rome ‘Sapienza’ and Campus Biomedico.
This study was supported by grants from the Italian Minister of Health (Young Investigator grant) and the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) under grant agreement number 603191, the PAINCAGE project.