Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) are widely expressed in the body and represent good sensors for detecting protons. The pH drop in the nervous system is equivalent to ischemia and acidosis, and ASICs are very good detectors in discriminating slight changes in acidity. ASICs are important pharmacological targets being involved in a variety of pathophysiological processes affecting both the peripheral nervous system (e.g., peripheral pain, diabetic neuropathy) and the central nervous system (e.g., stroke, epilepsy, migraine, anxiety, fear, depression, neurodegenerative diseases, etc.). This review discusses the role played by ASICs in different pathologies and the pharmacological agents acting on ASICs that might represent promising drugs. As the majority of above-mentioned pathologies involve not only neuronal dysfunctions but also microvascular alterations, in the next future, ASICs may be also considered as potential pharmacological targets at the vasculature level. Perspectives and limitations in the use of ASICs antagonists and modulators as pharmaceutical agents are also discussed.
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