Chronic pain is an enormous health burden and yet the mechanisms that are responsible for the transition from acute to chronic pain and different forms of chronic pain remain largely obscure. Short-term pain, which is mediated by pain-sensing neurons (nociceptors), serves a protective role by expediting healing from injury and prevention of maladaptive behaviors that have potential to cause tissue damage. However, for more than 25 million Americans, normal acute pain has transited into a chronic pathological form of pain that persists long after the time of normal healing. The burden that chronic pain places on our economy due to treatment costs and missed work is astronomical, ranging between $560-$635 billion annually. Moreover, the current treatment options for chronic pain are largely nonspecific with poor efficacy in many patients, giving rise to a new problem of prescription opioid over-use and addiction. Therefore, there is a huge need for us to increase our knowledge about how pain is generated, so that we can ultimately design more safe and targeted pain treatment options.
To make important contributions in science that increase our fundamental understanding of how the somatosensory system works, with a focus on acute and chronic pain.
Department of Biology
University of Pennsylvania