Astrocytes are the most abundant glial cells in the central nervous system (CNS), including the spinal cord. Neuronal damage induces astrocytes to become reactive and contribute to various CNS pathologies. Recent studies have demonstrated that astrocytes in the spinal dorsal horn (SDH) become reactive in a transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription 3-dependent manner without neuronal damage under chronic itch conditions, causing release of the factor lipocalin-2, leading to induction of sensitization of gastrin releasing peptide-induced chemical itch signaling in the SDH. In this review, we describe recent advances in our understanding of SDH neuronal pathways for itch transmission, the mechanisms of SDH astrocytic activation and its contribution to abnormal itch processing and discuss the role of reactive astrocytes in the SDH in abnormal sensory processing under chronic itch conditions.
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