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The Pain Research Program at the University of Iowa has been in existence for 15 years. Its faculty are internationally recognized for the seminal advances they have made in our understanding of the neurobiology of acute post-operative pain, musculoskeletal pain, migraine and the bulbospinal regulation of acute and chronic pain.

Many hold or have held leadership positions in national societies and key editorships for society journals. The program is recognized for its highly collaborative nature (see figure below), as well as the breadth and depth of its expertise (behavioral genetics in Drosophila to clinical trials of non-pharmacological approaches to pain management) and the diversity of its faculty. The structure of the program facilitates integrative research among its cadre of basic scientists, physician researchers, nurse researchers and physical therapy researchers who are based in multiple colleges, including the Carver College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Public Health and the College of Engineering.

Each laboratory brings complementary intellectual and technical strengths with strong interests in transitioning observations from the clinic to the laboratory, and from the laboratory to the clinic. The expertise of the faculty includes molecular and cellular biology, single cell and single fiber electrophysiology, immunohistochemical analysis, animal behavior, genetics, proteomics, imaging, quantitative sensory testing and clinical trials.

The Pain Research Program also provides a strong training and education program supported by two T32 awards from the NIH.

One award, “Interdisciplinary Training Program in Pain Research,” provides up to two years of support for two PhD predoctoral trainees and two years of postdoctoral support to provide two clinician scientists (MD/PhD, DPT/PhD) with protected time to develop their independent research program. Donna Hammond is the program director for this award.

The other award, “Pain and Associated Symptoms, Nurse Research Training,” is directed by Keela Herr and is designed to train nurse scientists. The competitive renewal of this award from the Institute for Nursing Research has been submitted.

The Pain Research Program hosts visiting faculty on a monthly basis providing faculty and trainees alike the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the field and to discuss their research with other pain researchers. Biweekly meetings also bring faculty and trainees together for presentations of work-in-progress. Under the direction of Kathleen Sluka, the program provides additional training through a series of graduate courses designed to give an overview of pain from the basic science, clinical management and clinical research perspectives. These courses include: Introduction to Pain; Clinical Connections: Pain Management and Syndromes; Molecular, Cellular and Neural Mechanisms of Pain; Methodology in Clinical Pain Research.

Pain Research Program faculty collaboration

Collaborative Projects

The Pain Research Program has several collaborative research projects underway, including:

  1. NIH UM1 AR063381, Fibromyalgia Activity Study with TENS “FAST ;” Sluka (PD), Rakel and Crofford (Dual PI)
  2. NIH R01 N072432, Regulation of TRPV1 and Nociceptor Sensitization by the Complement System; Usachev (PI), Brennan, (Co-I)
  3. NIH R01 AR061371 Central Mechanisms Involved in the Interactions between Muscle Pain and Exercise; Sluka (PI), Chapleau (Co-I)
  4. NIH R03 AR065197 Phenotyping Evoked Central Sensitivity to Painful Stimuli; Frey Law (PI), Rakel (Co-I), Sluka (Co-I)
  5. NIH R21 NS087908 Outer mitochondrial PKA and PP2A in neurodevelopment and plasticity; Strack (PI), Wemmie (Co-I), Usachev (Co-I)
  6. NIH R03NS080110 Predicting Chronic Pain after Thoracic Surgery: A Bayesian Approach; Bayman (PI), Brennan (Co-I)
  7. NIH R21AR065197 The Role of Ca-dependent Transcription Factor NFAT in Pain Control; Usachev (PI), Brennan (Co-I), Russo (Co-I), Hammond (Co-I)
  8. A I01 BX001414 Autonomic and Antihypertensive Actions of Neuronal CGRP/RAMP1 Receptors; Chapleau (PI), Russo (Co-I)