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 First Published Oct 31, 2012



Unlocking DNA to Find A Cure For Trigeminal Neuralgia


Dr. Marshal Devor      Dr. Kim Burchiel         Dr. Ze'ev Seltzer


Imagine unlocking the mysteries of DNA that are so extraordinary and then applying those learning’s to finding a cure for the worst pain known to humankind.

Our DNA functions as the building blocks, or blue prints of life.  We all carry these building blocks within every cell of our body.   For many years patients have asked themselves and their doctors “why me?

Why did I get this awful painful condition called trigeminal neuralgia?...Why do I suffer so and others don’t understand...why do I feel like I could simply die?”

The Facial Pain Research Foundation’s first international research project to find a cure is underway and it seeks to discover the answers to “Why Me?” and lead scientists to developing a cure.

The Foundation’s Trustees are excited to announce their fourth research project 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 toward prevention and cure.

 Dr. Douglas Anderson, Foundation Trustee and Director of Research Programs, first presented the concept that there was likely a genetic basis for TN at the 2004 TNA National Conference in Orlando. He always found it odd that the anatomy of compressed nerves/lesions were seen in a significant number of individuals but only a few had TN. He always harbored the idea of identifying a genetic profile in TN patients that would lead to ending the painful condition. Anderson says “If there is a history of a member of your family having TN, other members of your family could be screened and hopefully the condition could be prevented by having the genetic pattern altered so the pain will not develop.”

 Dr. Joanna Zakrzewska of London England, the Foundation’s International Research Coordinator, asked Dr. Marshall Devor in March 2012 to prepare a research project proposal to seek a cure for TN and present it to the Foundation.

After seven months, the researchers and the Foundation Trustees have approved the research project and are excited about moving forward. The three Principal Investigators of the project are Dr. Marshall Devor, Dr. Kim Burchiel and Dr. Ze’ve Seltzer. 

The team of international scientists is led by Principal Investigator pain research pioneer Dr. Marshall Devor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. The award winning scientist has had an outstanding career in pain research. He has contributed an outstanding body of research, authoring several hundred papers over 40 years and has been been described as one of those “who view excellence as a way of life and the fulfillment of human potential as essential to creating a better world for future generations.”

 Dr. Kim Burchiel is the Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon. Burchiel has been a long time member of the TNA Medical Advisory Committee and performed hundreds of TN surgeries. A successful researcher, he has been a national leader in the treatment of orofacial pains including TN. The first step of the research project, phenotyping and DNA collection, will be the responsibility of Professor Burchiel at OHSU. He is a leading authority in the phenotyping of facial pain conditions and author of the most widely accepted TN classification scheme. Dr. Burchiel has said: “this research project could be the most important pain study ever attempted” and he is very hopeful that it will lead to a cure for TN and related neuropathic pain.

Dr. Ze’ev Seltzer, Professor of Genetics at The University of Toronto, Canada is also an award winning scientist. He has dedicated his career to the study of pain. Seltzer says “ I am looking forward to be a Co-Principal Investigator in the TN project, bringing 35 years of studying the neurobiology of pain.” Having had many competitive grants and honors he has an outstanding track record of productivity in the field of pain and pain genetics. Seltzer also says “The goal to find a cure is achievable...our best salvation may come from genetics”.

 Consultants to the research project include: Dr. Joanna Zakrzewska, Eastman Dental Hospital, London, England...Professor Ariel Darvasi and Dr. Sagiv Shifman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel...and Dr. Scott Diehl, University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey.

If you have any questions or comments please address them to the Foundation at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Success in answering critical questions about the role of genes in TN and other 

nerve-related facial pains relies on private support. Here are ways in which donors

at all levels can join The Facial Pain Research Foundation in finding a solution:

  • Support full expenses of one patient in the study:        $1,770
  • Pay for the genotyping of one research participant:      1,100
  • Help with the phenotyping costs for one participant:      600
  • DNA extraction from one person’s saliva samples             40
  • Pay for saliva kit & shipping cost for one participant       30



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