A reappraisal of peripheral pain pathways


  • Prof John Wood

    University College London

  • Dr James Cox

    University College London

  • Dr Jing Zhao

    University College London

  • Prof Hanns Ulrich Zeilhofer

    University of Zurich

  • Prof Christopher Woods

    University of Cambridge

  • Prof Qiufu Ma

    Harvard University

  • Prof Patrik Ernfors

    Karolinska Institute

Project summary

Pain is a poorly treated problem for one in five people. New drugs are needed but many drug trials for painkillers have failed even though the drugs work in rodents. We have learned a lot about pain from genetic studies that show some nerves in the skin and viscera are only involved in pain pathways. However, we do not know the relationship between human nerves and mouse nerves.

We will characterise the properties of individual nerve cells in macaques. We are unable to do this in humans because we need fresh nerves for the analysis. However, we can search for heritable pain genes in people who suffer ongoing pain as these may be useful drug targets. We plan to analyse the nerve types involved in different types of pain in mice, and catalogue the genes linked to specific pain conditions in animal models. By artificially stimulating or silencing sets of nerves in living mice we can find out more about the physiological processes that lead to pain – and find new ways to treat it.