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Indepth TV Interview


Canada AM


Michael Pasternak Reports On Progress



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Finding a cure for trigeminal neuralgia and related neuropathic pain, the most painful disorders known to humans, is the mission of The Facial Pain Research Foundation. To conquer the problem by the end of 2020 The Foundation formed an international consortium of eminent scientists to conduct studies aimed at translation from laboratory to patient. July 2013 marks the end of the Foundation’s second fiscal year and provides the opportunity to review its research progress. Following are the four Foundation related/supported research projects making progress toward ending the pain. Each takes a different path and approach to finding a cure. The Foundation’s Scientists believe that a number of different kinds of cures will be necessary to end TN and neuropathic pain. They understand that there might be multiple causes at work in different patients.

University of Florida Neuroscientist Dr. Lucia Notterpek is using nanoparticles the size of viruses to deliver new drugs to cells that fail to do their normal job of producing myelin, a waxy coating on the nerves. Neurosurgeons have observed myelin damage in many patients with classical trigeminal neuralgia. Her studies are aimed at restoring formation of the protective coating in an effort to prevent the excruciating pain of trigeminal neuralgia. Notterpek is carrying out her studies of nanoparticle drug delivery in dish cultures of both normal Schwann cells, which produce myelin, and in abnormal Schwann cells which do not make myelin. The selected new drug agents are designed to affect the molecular pathways believed to be important to myelin formation and to induce production of the coating. She hopes to find ways to correct injurious changes in myelin-producing cells, which occur long before painful symptoms of nerve damage.

At the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Allan Basbaum’s studies are aimed at solving a known cause of facial pain: the apparent loss of chemical mediators that normally inhibit the transmission of pain signals to the brain. He has been transplanting nerve cells that secrete these inhibitory chemicals into the trigeminal area of hyperactivity. The goals are to introduce these healthy cells into the areas of the brain influenced by nerve damage, and to have them fully accepted as an integral part of normal nerve circuitry where they will be expected to normalize the inhibition of pain signals traveling to the brain. Basbaum’s work to stop nerve pain in animals has made international news. As a result of increased funding his laboratory team has grown and his research results are making excellent advances. The Foundation is very hopeful that his discoveries will eventually stop nerve pain in humans.

Dr. Andrew Ahn is working at the McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida to advance the scientific understanding of the mysteriously erratic pain of trigeminal neuralgia and other nerve-related problems. Ahn is seeking clues through an intensive study of throbbing pain experienced in people who have trigeminal neuralgia and other nerve-oriented pain conditions such as anesthesia dolorosa. In his laboratory they are trying to take the descriptions of symptoms by patients and turn them into more objective brain events. He wants to identify brain changes associated with the experience of pain, including throbbing, which is his current focus of attention. This is the first in a continuum of research designed to identify new sites (areas of the brain) for targeting treatments to end the pain. This will hopefully lead to more diagnostic understanding but also to the ability to effectively image the pain pathways of the brain which could lead to the possibility of creating processes that will block those pain pathways. Thereby, creating a way to end the neuropathic pain.

The fourth and newest Foundation research project is entitled “In Search of a Cure...Finding the Genes That Predispose to Trigeminal Neuralgia”. It’s goal is to identify the genes that make people susceptible to TN or cause the pain and then move forward toward prevention and cure. The team of international scientists is led by Principal Investigator pain research pioneer Dr. Marshall Devor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Two other scientists are also Principal Investigators: Dr. Kim Burchiel is the Chairman of Neurological Surgery at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon and Dr. Ze’ev Seltzer is a Professor of Genetics at The University of Toronto. Dr. Joanna Zakrzewska of London England, The Foundation’s International Research Coordinator and Dr. Scott Diehl, Director of the Center for Pharmacogenomics and Complex Disease Research at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey are the research project’s consultants.

The research project requires the study of 500 TN patients (research subjects). 100 subjects will have their DNA collected at OHSU. The remaining 400 subjects will be identified from eight additional locations. After the collection of the DNA it will be genotyped at a laboratory in New Jersey. The collection (phenotyping) of DNA from TN patients has begun at OHSU and the first 100 subjects will hopefully be completed by Fall. Following the collection of DNA and the genotyping process, the analysis of the findings will be the focus of the research team. Hopefully finding the causal genes and leading to prevention and cure. 


For additional information and/or questions please contact the Foundation at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Michael Pasternak at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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