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NYU dental school, Columbia researchers receive $2.4 million grant to study chronic pain

September 10, 2018 New York City — A researcher at the New York University College of Dentistry will receive a $2.4 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study painful medical conditions prevalent in military personnel and veterans.
Dr. Brian Schmidt, director of NYU's Bluestone Center for Clinical Research, will work with Nigel Bunnett, Ph.D., professor in Columbia University's departments of surgery and pharmacology, to study how receptors inside nerve cells generate chronic pain, including headache, nerve injury and infectious colitis.
The study's findings have broad implications beyond the military and may be used to develop new treatments for chronic pain, according to NYU.
"Our nerve receptor research has potentially groundbreaking clinical applications," said Dr. Schmidt in a news release. "This work could define a new class of drugs for chronic pain treatment — nonaddictive drugs that produce fewer deleterious side effects."

According to NYU, chronic pain management is an immense problem, with one in five people suffering from chronic pain during their lifetime. This type of pain is a major cause of human suffering because opioids and other classes of medications are ineffective or its effectiveness wanes with extended use.

Drs. Schmidt and Bunnett will investigate receptors on and within nerve cells. Theses receptors can detect many substances that are produced by injured tissues and some types of cancer. One pain-relief strategy involves blocking the activity of the receptors positioned on the surface of pain-sensing nerves.

In addition, Dr. Bunnett said that the research findings may go beyond the treatment of pain.

"Hundreds of members of this receptor family are found on all cells; a third of all clinically-used drugs act on these receptors," he said in a news release. "The knowledge derived from our work might be useful for modification of existing drugs used to treat a wide variety of diseases including heart disease and cancer."