Chronic pain has gained recognition as a major medical and social problem.
Neuropathic pain after injury or after diseases of the nervous system represents a significant clinical problem because of its complexity, chronicity and resistance to treatments. Moreover, our understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms of neuropathic pain is still limited. It is important to recognize that pain of other origins, such as cancer pain or arthritic pain may carry components of neuropathic pain during the chronic stage of the diseases.
We will collaborate with Camilla Svensson and Tomas Hökfelt on studies of rheumatoid arthritis models. Pain after injury to the central nervous system is a special form of neuropathic pain that is particularly difficult to treat. Our laboratory has developed a model of central pain after ischemic injury to the spinal cord in rats. Many features of this model are similar to clinical pain conditions in patients with spinal cord injury. We have applied this technique to produce peripheral nerve ischemia, which resulted in novel neuropathic pain models which may have relevance to clinical conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and trigeminal neuralgia. The goals of our research are to continue to utilize these models to explore the mechanisms of neuropathic pain and to seek effective treatments. This work is done in collaboration with Ernst Brodin.
It has been recognized that patients with identical injuries vary considerably in how much pain they experience. It has been suggested that genetic factors may play an important role in interindividual pain sensitivity. We carry out studies on identifying genes that may underlie susceptibility to pain, particularly those responsible for the development of neuropathic pain. In these studies we collaborate with Bertil Fredholm and Tomas Olsson.
We have known for some time that there are gender differences in the prevalence of many painful conditions among humans. Women tend to be overrepresented in the majority of chronic pain conditions, although in some pain states men are overrepresented and in some conditions there are no gender differences. We study sex differences in acute nociception and the development of chronic neuropathic pain in our models and try to address their clinical implications. We will develop and refine models of chronic pain for clinical conditions that are more prominent among women.