Introduction Previous studies have demonstrated that cytokines, transforming growth factor (TGF-β1), and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) can impact the intensity of pain in rodents. However, the roles of cytokines, TGF-β1 and BDNF in humans with chronic pain in osteoarthritis remains unclear, and no comparison between plasma and central cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) has been conducted. Methods Patients with osteoarthritis who were scheduled to receive spinal anesthesia were enrolled. The intensity of pain was evaluated with a visual analogue scale (VAS). In addition, patients with genitourinary system (GU) diseases and without obvious pain (VAS 0-1) were included as a comparison (control) group. The levels of TGF-β1, BDNF, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and interleukin (IL)-8 within the CSF and plasma were collected and evaluated before surgery. Results The plasma and CSF TGF-β1 levels were significantly lower in the osteoarthritis patients with pain (VAS ≥ 3) than in the GU control patients. Downregulation of plasma BDNF was also found in osteoarthritis patients with pain. The Spearman correlation analysis showed that the VAS pain scores were significantly negatively correlated with the levels of TGF-β1 in the CSF of patients with osteoarthritis. However, there was no significant correlations between the pain scores and the levels of BDNF, TNF-α, and IL-8 in either the CSF or plasma. Conclusions TGF-β1 but not BDNF, TNF-α, or IL-8 may be an important biological indicator in the CSF of osteoarthritis patients with chronic pain.
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