Metformin, an adenosine monophosphate (AMP)–activated protein kinase activator, as well as a common drug for type 2 diabetes, has previously been shown to decrease mechanical allodynia in mice with neuropathic pain. The objective of this study is to determine if treatment with metformin during the first 3 weeks after fracture would produce a long-term decrease in mechanical allodynia and improve a complex behavioral task (burrowing) in a mouse tibia fracture model with signs of complex regional pain syndrome.
Mice were allocated into distal tibia fracture or nonfracture groups (n = 12 per group). The fracture was stabilized with intramedullary pinning and external casting for 21 days. Animals were then randomized into 4 groups (n = 6 per group): (1) fracture, metformin treated, (2) fracture, saline treated, (3) nonfracture, metformin treated, and (4) nonfracture, saline treated. Mice received daily intraperitoneal injections of metformin 200 mg/kg or saline between days 14 and 21. After cast removal, von Frey force withdrawal (every 3 days) and burrowing (every 7 days) were tested between 25 and 56 days. Paw width was measured for 14 days after cast removal. AMP-activated protein kinase downregulation at 4 weeks after tibia fracture in the dorsal root ganglia was examined by immunohistochemistry for changes in the AMP-activated protein kinase pathway.
Metformin injections elevated von Frey thresholds (reduced mechanical allodynia) in complex regional pain syndrome mice versus saline-treated fracture mice between days 25 and 56 (difference of mean area under the curve, 42.5 g·d; 95% CI of the difference, 21.0–63.9; P
< .001). Metformin also reversed burrowing deficits compared to saline-treated tibial fracture mice (difference of mean area under the curve, 546 g·d; 95% CI of the difference, 68–1024; P
< .022). Paw width (edema) was reduced in metformin-treated fracture mice. After tibia fracture, AMP-activated protein kinase was downregulated in dorsal root ganglia neurons, and mechanistic target of rapamycin, ribosomal S6 protein, and eukaryotic initiation factor 2α were upregulated.
The important finding of this study was that early treatment with metformin reduces mechanical allodynia in a complex regional pain syndrome model in mice. Our findings suggest that AMP-activated protein kinase activators may be a viable therapeutic target for the treatment of pain associated with complex regional pain syndrome.