BACKGROUND: Morphine is one of the most commonly prescribed analgesics for treating wound pain. Using a mouse model of excisional wound injury, we determined the effects of high-dose morphine on angiogenesis and mobilization of endothelial progenitor cells. METHODS: An excisional wound was created on mice treated with placebo or morphine (20 mg/kg, i.p. injection for 14 days). Wound healing was compared by measuring the final-to-initial wound area ratio. Generation of superoxide anions in the wound was determined by luminol-enhanced chemiluminescence. Circulating mononuclear cells were isolated and measured for endothelial progenitor cell (defined as CD34+/CD133+ cell) counts. In vivo and in vitro measurements of angiogenesis after morphine treatment were performed using the Matrigel assay. RESULTS: Mice treated with morphine had reduced wound closure and higher wound superoxide ions concentrations than control mice. Morphine reduced the number of postwound circulating endothelial progenitor cells. Matrigel assay showed impaired angiogenesis in animals and reduced capillary tube formation in cultured endothelial cells treated with morphine. CONCLUSION: High-dose morphine impaired angiogenesis, increased systemic oxidative stress, and impaired mobilization of endothelial progenitor cells. This study emphasizes the potential detrimental effect of high-dose morphine on angiogenesis after systemic administration.
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