Testing Novel Pain Therapeutics

Ru-Rong Ji, PhD
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.

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.