15 June 2021
This review highlights potential molecular targets for treating neuropathic orofacial pain based on current findings in animal models. Preclinical research is currently elucidating the pathophysiology of the disease and identifying the molecular targets for better therapies using animal models that mimic this category of orofacial pain, especially post-traumatic trigeminal neuropathic pain (PTNP) and primary trigeminal neuralgia (PTN). Animal models of PTNP and PTN simulate their etiologies, that is, trauma to the trigeminal nerve branch and compression of the trigeminal root entry zone, respectively. Investigations in these animal models have suggested that biological processes, including inflammation, enhanced neuropeptide-mediated pain signal transmission, axonal ectopic discharges, and enhancement of interactions between neurons and glial cells in the trigeminal pathway, are underlying orofacial pain phenotypes. The molecules associated with biological processes, whose expressions are substantially altered following trigeminal nerve damage or compression of the trigeminal nerve root, are potentially involved in the generation and/or exacerbation of neuropathic orofacial pain and can be potential molecular targets for the discovery of better therapies. Application of therapeutic candidates, which act on the molecular targets and modulate biological processes, attenuates pain-associated behaviors in animal models. Such therapeutic candidates including calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor antagonists that have a reasonable mechanism for ameliorating neuropathic orofacial pain and meet the requirements for safe administration to humans seem worth to be evaluated in clinical trials. Such prospective translation of the efficacy of therapeutic candidates from animal models to human patients would help develop better therapies for neuropathic orofacial pain.