Dedicated Staff and Cutting-Edge Technology Helps Solve Pain’s Many Mysteries
Thursday, May 5, 2022
For such a common ailment, pain remains a significant mystery. Part of the challenge of studying it is that it occurs in so many conditions and can vary from a mild ache to life-altering misery. Fortunately for both pain patients and IRP researchers studying pain, the NIH Pain Research Center has the technology and expertise to power new discoveries about pain in its many, complex forms.
On March 31 and April 1, NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) hosted a two-day virtual symposium titled “Tackling Pain at the National Institutes of Health: Updates From the Bench, the Clinic, and the New NIH Pain Research Center,” which featured presentations from a number of IRP scientists exploring important questions related to pain. Read on to learn more about some of the research discussed during that event, including efforts examining pain in patients with rare diseases, early-phase clinical trials of a new pain treatment, and investigations of how psychological factors can affect the way people experience pain.
NIH Pain Research Center Shines Light on a Common and Complex Ailment
Monday, April 25, 2022
At one time or another, practically everyone has had a headache, stubbed their toe, or scorched their mouth on a hot slice of pizza, making pain one of the few experiences that essentially all people share. Despite its everyday nature, however, pain remains extremely mysterious. Even more enigmatic is chronic pain, which may not even stem from a clearly defined source yet affects more than a fifth of American adults.
Given the near-universality of pain and its huge social and economic burden, it’s no surprise that many researchers at NIH study it. Yet, prior to 2019, there was no central, shared entity in the NIH’s Intramural Research Program that united the many scientists performing this important work. That was the year NIH’s Pain Research Center was established, with the help of funding from the NIH Director’s Challenge Innovation Awards.
New Receptors and Radioactively Labeled Molecules Could Provide Useful Tools for Research and Medicine
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Genetically modifying neurons to enable scientists and clinicians to influence brain activity probably sounds like the stuff of science fiction. However, the technology has existed for more than a decade, allowing scientists to make important leaps in understanding how neurons communicate with one another in healthy individuals and those with psychological and neurological conditions. What’s more, recent improvements to these tools developed by researchers led by IRP investigator Mike Michaelides, Ph.D., may allow neurologists to use them to deliver drugs to just the right brain cells to treat those ailments effectively without the side effects caused by current treatments.
Virtual Symposium Showcases Scientists-in-Training
Monday, March 8, 2021
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, life at NIH goes on. IRP researchers continue to run experiments, publish scientific papers, and train the next generation of scientists, including the many graduate students performing research in IRP labs through the Graduate Partnership Program. On February 17 and 18, more than 100 of these scientists-in-training presented their work virtually at the NIH’s 17th annual Graduate Student Research Symposium. Like last year’s entirely online Postbac Poster Day, the event overcame the constraints of COVID-19 precautions to showcase a broad range of research, including several studies focused on the novel coronavirus.
Genetic Studies Illuminate Neuronal Chemical’s Role in Pain and Itch
Thursday, October 29, 2020
For most of us, itch is a bothersome inconvenience. Unfortunately, for 125 million people around the world, chronic itch caused by the skin disease psoriasis is a significant, even debilitating, health problem. Psoriasis causes skin cells to multiply up to 10 times faster than normal and build up as an itchy and painful, scaly rash. For some, the condition can also cause joint swelling, resulting in a condition known as ‘psoriatic arthritis.’
World Psoriasis Day falls on October 29 this year, and the theme is “Be Informed.” So, what do we know about chronic itch?
Program Boosts Initiatives Supporting Researchers Across NIH
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
From Superbowl-winning football teams to comic book cohorts like The Avengers, combining the efforts of multiple talented individuals is a proven strategy for achieving remarkable results. It may come as no surprise, then, that the NIH’s Intramural Research Program (IRP) strongly encourages collaborations that breach the boundaries of its 24 Institutes and Centers. One example of these efforts is the Director’s Challenge Innovation Awards Program, which since 2009 has funded high-impact scientific projects that bring together researchers from across the IRP.
Five Questions with Dr. Catherine Bushnell
Monday, September 9, 2019
Yoga is all the rage these days, with millions of people taking part in the practice for relaxation, meditation, and increasing flexibility and muscle strength. However, the benefits of yoga go beyond what most might think. In fact, the mind-body practice of yoga could have a significant impact on the lives of those living with chronic pain, a condition that affects tens of millions of Americans.
In the past, doctors often prescribed opioids to treat chronic pain. However, research has shown that people with chronic pain have anatomical and neurochemical alterations in the brain that make them less responsive to opioids. In addition, both the medical and political systems are currently contending with a public health crisis stemming from the over-use of opioid pain medications. As a result, researchers have been working to identify ways to better manage chronic pain, particularly without the use of medication.
Neuroimaging Could Help Tailor Treatment for Amputees
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Our brains frequently cause us to perceive things that are not real, from high-pitched ringing in an empty room to dancing spots in our vision after staring at a bright light. Even more strangely, people with phantom limb syndrome feel sensations, including pain, in arms and legs that they no longer have. New IRP research into the brain mechanisms underlying phantom limb pain could help hone treatment for individuals living with the condition.
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Everyone has a different pain threshold; a plate that’s too hot for one person to touch might be easily handled by someone else, for example. Now, IRP researchers have found the first evidence that a person’s sensation of a painful temperature more strongly influences the body’s automatic response to it than does the actual temperature.
Monday, May 7, 2018
On Wednesday, May 2, hundreds of researchers gathered at NIH’s Natcher Conference Center to show off their recent discoveries. But unlike a typical scientific conference, the letters “M.D.” and “Ph.D.” were noticeably absent from these scientists’ credentials. Instead, the event — NIH’s annual Postbac Poster Day — celebrated the accomplishments of individuals participating in the NIH Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) Program.