Natural Killer Cells as a Treatment for Neuropathic Pain


What is neuropathy?

Neuropathy involves damage or dysfunction of one or more nerves in the body. The condition can affect any nerve. There are four categories of neuropathy, which include the following:

  • Peripheral neuropathy affects the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, such as those in the feet, hands, legs or arms.
  • Cranial neuropathy affects the cranial nerves that emerge directly from the brain.
  • Autonomic neuropathy affects nerves of the involuntary nervous system, such as those that control the digestive tract, heart, and other organs.
  • Focal neuropathy affects one nerve, one group of nerves, or one area of the body.

Neuropathy can present in three ways: signals failing to be sent, signals being sent when they should not be, and distortion in messages being sent. Pain may feel like electrical shocks, burning, tingling, numbness, or stabbing. It may also develop due to light pressure, when no pain would normally be experienced.

What are natural killer cells?

Natural killer cells (also referred to as NK cells) are a type of white blood cell that eliminates unwanted cells that are infected or diseased, such as cancer cells. Disrupting the bad cells in their early stages prevents the spread of viruses and cancer throughout the body. NK cells are important components of the body’s immune system.

NK cells and neuropathic pain

Recently, evidence has supported the idea that natural killer cells could have a role in treating neuropathic pain. The theory is that NK cells would target sensory nerves that sustain damage as a result of an injury in the same way they target infected or diseased cells. However, there have been instances of NK cells mistakenly attacking healthy cells in the body. Further research is needed to determine if the use of NK cells is a safe and effective treatment for nerve pain.

Additional source: Medical News Today