Pain is a major debilitating factor in osteoarthritis (OA), yet few mechanism-based therapies are available. To address the need to understand underlying mechanisms the aim of the present study was to determine changes in sensory neurons in an animal model of OA pain.
The model displayed typical osteoarthritis pathology characterized by cartilage degeneration in the knee joint and also manifested knee pathophysiology (edema and increased vasculature permeability of the joint) and altered nociception of the affected limb (hind paw tenderness and knee articulation-evoked reduction in the tail flick latency). Neurons included in this report innervated regions throughout the entire hind limb. Aβ-fiber low threshold mechanoreceptors exhibited a slowing of the dynamics of action potential (AP) genesis, including wider AP duration and slower maximum rising rate, and muscle spindle neurons were the most affected subgroup. Only minor AP configuration changes were observed in either C- or Aδ-fiber nociceptors.
Thus, at one month after induction of the OA model Aβ-fiber low threshold mechanoreceptors but not C- or Aδ-fiber nociceptors had undergone changes in electrophysiological properties. If these changes reflect a change in functional role of these neurons in primary afferent sensory processing, then Aβ-fiber non-nociceptive primary sensory neurons may be involved in the pathogenesis of OA pain. Further, it is important to point out that the patterns of the changes we observed are consistent with observations in models of peripheral neuropathy but not models of peripheral inflammation.