Identifying the population of nerve cells that are responsible for musculoskeletal pain

Disease - Muscle weakness, back pain, fibromyalgia

Lead applicant - Dr Shafaq Sikandar

Organisation - University College London

Type of grant - Career Development Fellowship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £457,470.45

Start date - 1 October 2018

Reference - 21734

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

The aim of this research is to understand the changes that occur in the nervous system in chronic musculoskeletal pain, and to identify which population of nerve cells are responsible for driving chronic pain.

Why is this research important?

Chronic pain is a common symptom of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. There is a demand for new drugs to treat this pain, and this can only happen with better understanding of how chronic pain develops in different conditions. Currently there is a poor understanding of the difference between nerve cells responsible for normal sensations from the skin compared to nerve cells that produce pain from other parts of the body, such as muscle, which is one of the reasons for inadequate pain management of some musculoskeletal diseases.

There is already a lot of knowledge about pain from genetic research, and the use of genetic engineering allows us to look at specific parts of the nervous system. Using mice with fibromyalgia, the researchers will use genetic approaches to delete specific types of nerve cells, in order to identify those that are responsible for chronic musculoskeletal pain.

How will the findings benefit patients?

The outcomes of this research could provide potential targets for new pain relieving drugs. Understanding the cause for the transition from acute to chronic musculoskeletal pain is an essential basis for drug development, and the targets identified here may be applicable to a wide range of musculoskeletal pain conditions.