Debilitating jaw and neck pain targeted through $19 million NIH support, multidisciplinary center

One of the most stubborn and debilitating pain syndromes will come under intense and unprecedented scrutiny over the next seven years as researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill fulfill a new $19 million cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Collaborating in the effort will be scientists at the universities of Florida, Maryland and Buffalo-SUNY and Batelle Memorial Institute in Durham, N.C.

The federal support, a form of grant, is one of the largest in the university's history.

UNC leaders of the effort also will establish a new center on the Chapel Hill campus aimed at learning more about what causes temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) and eventually how treatments can be improved and pain either eliminated or eased. Each year, the illness incurs well over $1 billion in health-care costs in this country.

"Our initial purpose is to identify the biological, psychological and genetic risk factors that contribute to pain and dysfunction associated with TMJD," said Dr. William Maixner, professor and director of the new Center for Neurosensory Disorders at the UNC School of Dentistry. "This is an extremely common disorder that afflicts millions of people worldwide and ranks second only to headache in producing craniofacial pain and dysfunction in the U.S. population. One of our primary goals with this research and center is to identify new ways of improving therapies for TMJD and related conditions."

Maixner and Dr. David Savitz, professor and chair of epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health, are co-program directors for the Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA) study.

"Whereas health problems such as heart disease and cancer have been the focus of many epidemiologic studies and for which there are many experts, other common, under-studied health conditions such as TMJD have almost no history of this kind of research," S

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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