Author(s): Spetea M
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Abstract Interest in opioid drugs like morphine, as the oldest and most potent pain-killing agents known, has been maintained through the years. One of the most frequent chronic pain sensations people experience is associated with pathological conditions of the musculoskeletal system. Chronic musculoskeletal pain is a major health problem, and an adequate management requires understanding of both peripheral and central components, with more attention drawn to the former. Intense experimental and clinical research activities resulted in important knowledge on the mechanisms and functions of the endogenous opioid system located in the periphery. This review describes the occurrence and distribution of endogenous opioids and their receptors in the musculoskeletal system, and their role in pain control in musculoskeletal disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Using different techniques, including immunohistochemistry, electron microscopy or radioimmunoassay, expression of enkephalins, dynorphin, β-endorphin, and endomorphins was demonstrated in musculoskeletal tissues of animals and humans. Localization of opioid peptides was found in synovial membrane, periosteum, bone and bone marrow, loose connective tissue, the paratenon and musculotendinous junction of the achilles tendon. Animal and human studies have also demonstrated expression of µ, δ and κ opioid receptor proteins in musculoskeletal tissues using radioligand binding assays, autoradiography, electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry and Western blotting. Opioid receptor gene expression was reported based on polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization techniques. Combining morphological and quantitative approaches, important evidence that the musculoskeletal apparatus is equipped with a peripheral opioid system is provided. Demonstration of the occurrence of an endogenous opioid system in bone and joint tissues represents an essential step for defining novel pharmacological strategies to attain peripheral control of pain in musculoskeletal disorders.
This article was published in Curr Pharm Des
and referenced in Journal of Pain & Relief