Testing Novel Pain Therapeutics

Ru-Rong Ji, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Anesthesiology and Professor in Neurobiology,
Duke University School of Medicine

Individuals with neuropathic pain often experience mechanical allodynia, a condition in which a low-threshold stimulus, such as the touch of fabric, produces pain. Using NDRI-supplied tissues in its research, a team from Duke University is moving toward a more effective treatment for mechanical allodynia, which may have implications for other types of chronic pain.

Ru Rong Ji, PhD, of the department of anesthesiology at Duke University School of Medicine, and his team conduct molecular, cellular and electrophysiological studies in human dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. In the lab, they use human DRG tissue to study gene expression in human sensory neurons and and test the effects of novel pain mediators and therapeutics on neuronal excitability. In November 2015, the journal Nature Medicine published Dr. Ji’s work using NDRI-provided tissue.

Ru- Rong Ji, MD, Neurologist

Ru- Rong Ji, MD, Neurologist

The team studied a means of blocking large, myelinated group A nerve fibers, specifically Aβ fibers, as a target for the treatment of neuropathic pain. Activation of Toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5), along with application of sodium channel-blockers in sensory neurons led to effective silencing of Aβ fibers and suppression of mechanical allodynia. The research has implications for potential treatments for neuropathic pain associated with chemotherapy, nerve injury and diabetic neuropathy.

Recent Publications

Xu ZZ, et. al., 2015. Inhibition of mechanical allodynia in neuropathic pain by TLR5-mediated A-fiber blockade. Nature Medicine 21(11): 1326-1331.

Chen et al., 2017. PD-L1 inhibits acute and chronic pain by suppressing nociceptive neuron activity via PD-1. Nat Neurosci. 2017 Jul;20(7):917-926.

Chang et al., 2018. Expression and Role of Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels in Human Dorsal Root Ganglion Neurons with Special Focus on Nav1.7, Species Differences, and Regulation by Paclitaxel. Neurosci Bull. 2018 Feb;34(1):4-12.

Donnelly et al., 2021. STING controls nociception via type I interferon signalling in sensory neurons. Nature. 2021 Mar;591(7849):275-280.

Luo et al., IL-23/IL-17A/TRPV1 axis produces mechanical pain via macrophage-sensory neuron crosstalk in female mice. Neuron. 2021 Sep 1;109(17):2691-2706.e5.

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"NDRI has greatly increased the translational potential of my research."

-Ru-Rong Ji, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Anesthesiology and Professor in Neurobiology, Duke University School of Medicine

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