Despite increasing progress in the understanding of the pathophysiology of pain, current management of pain syndromes is still unsatisfactory. The recent discovery of novel pathways associated with pain insensitivity in humans represents a unique opportunity to improve our knowledge on the pathophysiology of pain. Heme metabolism recently emerged as a crucial regulator of nociception. Of note, alteration of heme metabolism has been associated with pain insensitivity as well as with acute and chronic pain in porphyric neuropathy and hemolytic diseases. However, the molecular mechanisms linking heme to the pain pathways still remain unclear. The review focuses on the major heme-regulated processes relevant for sensory neurons’ maintenance, peripheral and central sensitization as well as for pain comorbidities, like anxiety and depression. By discussing the body of knowledge on the topic, we provide a novel perspective on the molecular mechanisms linking heme to nociception.
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