Sex differences play a role in pain sensitivity, efficacy of analgesic drugs and prevalence of neuropathic pain, even if the underlying mechanisms are far from being understood. We demonstrate that male and female mice react differently to structural and functional changes induced by sciatic nerve ligature, used as model of neuropathic pain. Male mice show a gradual decrease of allodynia and a complete recovery while, in females, allodynia and gliosis are still present four months after neuropathy induction. Administration of 17β-estradiol is able to significantly attenuate this difference, reducing allodynia and inducing a complete recovery also in female mice. Parallel to pain attenuation, 17β-estradiol treated-mice show a functional improvement of the injured limb, a faster regenerative process of the peripheral nerve and a decreased neuropathy-induced gliosis. These results indicate beneficial effects of 17β-estradiol on neuropathic pain and neuronal regeneration and focuses on the importance of considering gonadal hormones also in clinical studies.
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