Towards a neurobiological understanding of pain in neurofibromatosis type 1: Mechanisms and implications for treatment

Shreya S. Bellampalli, Rajesh Khanna

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is the most common of a group of rare diseases known by the term, "Neurofibromatosis," affecting 1 in 3000 to 4000 people. NF1 patients present with, among other disease complications, café au lait patches, skin fold freckling, Lisch nodules, orthopedic complications, cutaneous neurofibromas, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, cognitive impairment, and chronic pain. Although NF1 patients inevitably express pain as a debilitating symptom of the disease, not much is known about its manifestation in the NF1 disease, with most current information coming from sporadic case reports. Although these reports indicate the existence of pain, the molecular signaling underlying this symptom remains underexplored, and thus, we include a synopsis of the literature surrounding NF1 pain studies in 3 animal models: mouse, rat, and miniswine. We also highlight unexplored areas of NF1 pain research. As therapy for NF1 pain remains in various clinical and preclinical stages, we present current treatments available for patients and highlight the importance of future therapeutic development. Equally important, NF1 pain is accompanied by psychological complications in comorbidities with sleep, gastrointestinal complications, and overall quality of life, lending to the importance of investigation into this understudied phenomenon of NF1. In this review, we dissect the presence of pain in NF1 in terms of psychological implication, anatomical presence, and discuss mechanisms underlying the onset and potentiation of NF1 pain to evaluate current therapies and propose implications for treatment of this severely understudied, but prevalent symptom of this rare disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1007-1018
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Biopsychosocial
  • Chronic pain
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor
  • Mechanisms of nociceptive signaling
  • Neurofibroma
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Towards a neurobiological understanding of pain in neurofibromatosis type 1: Mechanisms and implications for treatment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this