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Oxford pain researchers are playing a major role in a new multi-million pound research programme launched by a consortium of funders, including UKRI, Versus Arthritis, Eli Lilly and the Medical Research Foundation.

This is a journey. A lot of fantastic research has been done in the past, but we haven't cracked the problem yet, and we need to develop new ways to go forward. This can be achieved through patient partners and scientists working collectively, and effectively, to move research forward. We hope that this can deliver the best outcomes for patients with chronic pain. (David Walsh, Director of the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform)

 

The Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP) is a UK-based network of scientists, clinicians and patients who are coming together to try and deliver new breakthroughs in understanding human pain. Chronic pain is one of the greatest unmet needs in healthcare. It is the leading global cause of disability and carries an enormous socioeconomic cost in the UK and worldwide. But progress in delivering new treatments has been difficult and slow.

The APDP represents the largest ever coordinated programme of pain research in the UK, and comprises experts in clinical and neurobiological aspects of pain, sociologists, psychologists, and data scientists, and spans research and healthcare institutions across the UK and beyond. The APDP has a particularly strong involvement of people with lived experience of chronic pain. Four Oxford labs are part of this platform:

 

 

PAIN IN WOMEN

Katy Vincent is leading a project focusing on pain in women, who are more likely to develop almost all types of chronic pain than men are. Her research aims to understand whether period pain during adolescence increases the risk of developing chronic pain as a young woman, and to identify the mechanisms that underlie this risk from childhood through to adulthood. In collaboration with Krina Zondervan, Mina Fazel, Kate Stein, Sharon Dixon, MaryAnn Noonan and colleagues from Endometriosis UK and Bristol University, she will be combining both laboratory and clinical epidemiological data in a wide variety of contexts. Prof Vincent commented: 

"We are really excited for the opportunity this funding gives us to better understand period pain in teenagers. Severe period pain is incredibly common yet is frequently dismissed as a normal part of being a woman. We hope to be able to better understand who is at risk of developing severe period pain soon after their periods start and determine whether experiencing period pain as a teenager increases the risk of other chronic pain conditions in adulthood. Ultimately we hope to use this information to reduce pain and improve quality of life for both teenagers and adult women."

 

NEUROPATHIC PAIN

David Bennett is leading one of the central APDP consortia, PAINSTORM (Partnership for Assessment and Investigation of Neuropathic Pain: Studies Tracking Outcomes, Risks and Mechanisms. This includes colleagues from Oxford (Giorgos Baskozos, Annina Schmid, Andreas Themistocleous and Irene Tracey) and from Imperial College London, University of Dundee, University of Aberdeen, Ghent University, and King's College London.

PAINSTORM brings together experts in and people living with neuropathic pain to understand what causes neuropathic pain and how best to assess and ultimately treat neuropathic pain. It focuses on studying people at risk of neuropathic pain and following their progress over time, to try and identify genetic, neurobiological and environmental factors that determine why some people, but not others, develop pain.

 

SCIATICA

Annina Schmid is running a project that aims to identify factors that predict the transition from acute to persistent pain in people with 'sciatica' (the FORECAST Study). Sciatica is a common condition and is caused by injured or irritated nerves in the lower back. Whereas many people with sciatica recover, some develop persistent pain or symptoms. The FORECAST study investigates whether we can predict who will recover and who will continue to have persistent pain, from a range of clinical, physiological and neurobiological factors. This project will be performed in collaboration with Oxford researchers Irene Tracey, Jeremy Fairbank, Stuart Clare, Fay Probert, Lucy Ridgway, Mohamed Tachrount and Georgios Baskozos, two patient partners as well as colleagues from University of Aberdeen, King's College London and Ghent University.

 

MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN

Ben Seymour, Anushka Soni, Tim Denison and Katja Wiech, plus colleagues from Cambridge University (Flavia Mancini), are leading a project that tries to identify risks for developing musculoskeletal pain. They are looking for brain factors - in particular in the way that the brain responds to adversity - to see if they can identify cognitive factors that can predict who will develop chronic pain in the first place, and and also identify which patients who have chronic pain will respond to treatment.

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