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Current Research
Experimental pain models in humans and heritability of pain traits
Project 1
We are developing the model of UVB irradiation as a translational model of experimental pain in humans. UVB irradiation leads to hypersensitivity to both mechanical and thermal stimuli as well as localised erythema. We have adapted this model for use in both humans and rodents. We are using microfluidic PCR arrays to screen a large number of mediators in inflamed skin and this has enabled us to compare mediator expression in both rodent and human skin and assess susceptibility to pharmacological manipulation. We hope therefore that this will enable us to characterise novel mediators contributing to the generation of inflammatory pain which can be validated in rodent and translated back into man.

We have previously found significant heritability of pain traits in twin studies performed in collaboration with Prof Tim Spector. We would now like to extend this research by studying pain sensibility in both volunteers and increasing the size of the twins cohort. Deatiled psychophysical testing will be performed in combination with modern genomics to try and find genetic variants which modulate pain sensibility.

Project 2
Two approaches are being taken to study the development of neuropathic pain in patients. Firstly in combination with Prof JN Wood and international collaborators we have identified a cohort of patients with a novel gain of function pain syndrome inherited in a mendelian fashion. Using linkage analysis, candidate gene sequencing and detailed clinical assessment the genetic basis for this rare syndrome is being determined.

We are also studying risk factors for onset and severity of neuropathic pain in the context of peripheral neuropathy (Pain In Neuropathy Study, DR DLH Bennett, Prof SB McMahon and Prof AS Rice). A large cohort of neuropathy patients will be studied and their pain symptoms, detailed quantitative sensory testing and intra-epidermal nerve fibre density documneted. This clinical assessment will be combined with candidate gene analysis and possibly genome wide association studies in the future.