Neuropathic Pain Research

About us

Aim and Concepts

 

Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability, its treatment is challenging, and its burden is increasing. Our research is focused on neuropathic pain, a particularly debilitating form of chronic pain caused by a lesion or disease affecting the somatosensory nervous system. Specifically, our work has demonstrated that there is a complex interplay between immune responses and sensory pathways and that chronic pain following nervous system damage results from a neuroimmune imbalance leading to chronic neuroinflammation and long-lasting neuropathic pain. Thus, boosting anti-inflammatory responses, such as expanding populations of immunoregulatory immune cells, or administering anti-inflammatory mediators, at the site of nervous system injury may be beneficial in neuropathic pain.

 

The principal aim of our research is to understand the relationship between the nervous system and the immune system, with particular emphasis on how immune cells and their mediators affect neuropathic pain, and to assess immunotherapeutic approaches. This knowledge can then be used for identifying target molecules or cells for therapeutic purposes in reducing chronic pain.

We use in vitro and in vivo models of neuropathic pain to investigate the neuroimmune crosstalk in the injured nervous system. Animal models include peripheral nerve injury, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, and an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, EAE; a model of multiple sclerosis). In vitro models include primary cultures of dorsal root ganglia sensory neurons, microglia and regulatory T cells.

                                    image - Neuropathic Pain Research

Experimental techniques include:

  • Animal surgery (e.g. peripheral nerve injury)
  • Animal immunisation (e.g. induction of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis)
  • Behavioural tests (e.g. mechanical allodynia, thermal hyperalgesia, open field test)
  • Histological work (fluorescent/confocal microscopy and image analysis)
  • Cell culture (sensory neurons, microglia)
  • PCR / Western blot / ELISA
  • Flow cytometry
  • Multiplex cytokine assays
  • Electrophysiology using the technique of in vitro threshold tracking to measure axonal excitability

 

Key Achievements

April 2018: Sam Duffy was awarded his PhD and Ryan Tonkin submitted his PhD thesis.

image - Neuropathic Pain Research

image - Neuropathic Pain Research

UNSW Graduation 2016

image - Neuropathic Pain Research

 

May 2015: Chamini, Justin and Preet presenting posters at the 5th International Congress on Neuropathic Pain, Nice France

image - Neuropathic Pain Research

Team

Grants & Funding

Source and subject of grant

Investigators

Year

Sums (AUD)

NHMRC Project Grant (ID # APP1162060)

 

“Targets and mechanisms in reducing neuropathic pain through immunomodulatory treatments"

 

Moalem-Taylor G & Butovsky Oleg

 

2019-2022

 

  $927,520

Cancer Institute NSW Translational Program Grant – “Chemotherapy-induced Peripheral Neuropathy: Assessment strategies, Treatment and Risk Factors”  Goldstein D, Park S, Friedlander M, Kiernan M, Krishnan A, Boyle F, Moalem-Taylor G, Haas M, Cohn R, Farrar M 2015-2020    $3,044,654

 

Students

Students / Postdoctoral Fellows

PhDs 

  • Preet Singh - PhD student (02/2015 - Present)
  • Brooke Keating - PhD student (2017 - Present)
  • Lital Livni - PhD student (2017 - Present)
  • Mallory Luke - PhD student (2018 - Present)

Alumni

  • Chamini Perera, PhD (2016)
  • Sam Duffy, PhD (2018)
  • Munnawar Abdullah, Master by Research (2018)
  • Ryan Tonkin - PhD (2018)

Posdocs

  • Dr Justin Lees (2013- present)
  • Nathan Fiore (2019-present)