Yale School of Medicine Scientist Receives Award for Pain Research

Bryan Hains, associate research scientist in the Department of Neurology at Yale School of Medicine, is the recipient of a two–year Pfizer Scholars Grant in Pain Medicine, recommended by an independent academic advisory board of leaders in pain research and medicine.

Hains’ research on pain, performed in the laboratory of Stephen G. Waxman, M.D., professor and chair of neurology, has shown for the first time that injury to the spinal cord and peripheral nerves triggers changes in sodium channel expression within higher–order sensory neurons of the pain pathway. These changes in sodium channel expression cause the sensory neurons to fire signals abnormally and manifest as neuropathic pain.

The findings suggest a novel approach for the treatment of neuropathic pain by blocking pathological expression of sodium channels within higher–order sensory neurons of the pain–signaling pathway.

Commenting on the award, Waxman said, “There is a pressing need for more effective treatments for neuropathic pain, and it is gratifying that Pfizer’s Scholars Program supports energetic young investigators in this area of critical need. It is also gratifying to see an individual as talented as Bryan Hains entering the field of pain research. We hope this work will make it possible to develop new and highly focused therapies that are more effective but with fewer side effects.”

Hains has also established that following traumatic injury to the spinal cord, some neurons of the cerebral cortex that control movement degenerate as a result of injury to nerve fibers that relay messages down the spine and that this degeneration occurs several weeks after injury through a process of programmed self-destruction called apoptosis. This discovery opens up the possibility of improving function in people with spinal cord injuries by treatments that prevent the death of these neurons.

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