The Center for the Study of Pharmacologic Plasticity in the Presence of Pain is funded by a grant from the National Institute for Neurologic Diseases and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health.
For the next five years the center will investigate changes in the nervous system, particularly the spinal cord, in the presence of certain medicines and how those changes affect the sensation of pain. The research will take place both in the laboratory and in the clinic.
The research will focus on pain that persists from nerve injury in tissues that have since healed. Nerve-injury, or neuropathic, pain can be a burning or shooting feeling, often accompanied by painful feelings from otherwise normal events, such as light touch on the skin. Scientists believe that nerve activity in the spinal cord has a major influence over the perception of pain from damaged nerve endings.
James C. Eisenach, M.D., professor of anesthesiology and the principal investigator in the new pain center, used the example of sunburn. "Most people will recover from nerve injuries, just like their skin sensation returns to normal after a sunburn goes away. But a lot of people develop chronic pain, and when that happens there are changes in the spinal cord, with the chemicals and receptors. So even without the sunburn actually there, light touch can give them the sensation of pain."
As part of the center, Eisenach will lead a research project to study the pain-relieving mechanism of a blood-pressure medicine called clonidine. Although clonidine does not work for well for acute, trauma-induced pain, it is effective for pain following nerve injury - and at a much lower doses. Eisenach said he will test the theory that clonidine "stimulates
Contact: Mark Wright
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center