New research could provide relief for chronic pain sufferers

December 12, 2011

Murdoch University researchers believe they can find a way to block the transmission of pain signals to the brain and provide relief for chronic pain sufferers.

Murdoch University’s Director of the Centre for Research on Chronic Pain and Inflammatory Diseases, Professor Peter Drummond, said chronic pain has an annual cost to the Australian economy of $34 billion and can range from mild discomfort to excruciating torture.

“Some sufferers are unable to work, walk or sleep and may find something as simple as clothes brushing against their skin, unbearable,” Professor Drummond said.

Professor Drummond is the chief investigator of a research project that has been awarded $466,596 over four years by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

“We’ll be concentrating on pain caused by nerve damage, which could cover pain from a sprain or fracture or pain associated with diabetes or shingles, “ Professor Drummond said.

Professor Drummond and his research team will be looking to establish whether a chemical called noradrenaline (which attaches to the nerve causing pain) increases after a person has suffered nerve damage and whether medication can block the pain signals.

If pain signals can be blocked, this could open up new avenues for treatment of previously intractable pain syndromes.

“The first part of our research project will involves taking skin samples from suffers of complex regional pain syndrome and then studying the way pain is experienced by the body,” Professor Drummond said.

“About six month into the study we will trial a cream that we believe can reduce the sensitivity in the skin and hopefully provide relief for chronic pain sufferers.

“We’ll also test anti-inflammatory cream to see how helpful that can be.”

Professor Drummond will collaborate with the Director of the Perth Pain Management Centre, Murdoch University Adjunct Professor Philip Finch, Associate Professor Frank Birklein from the University of Mainz in Germany and Associate Professor Norman Harden from Northwestern University in Chicago.

200 hundred people will be involved in the study.

The Centre for Research on Chronic Pain welcomes donations to support it research.  Anyone wanting to support the Centre should email or phone the Office of Development on 9360 7281.

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