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Making pain visible

One in five Europeans suffers from chronic pain – and inadequate or incorrect pain treatment can cause huge burdens for individuals and society.

The PAIN-Vis initiative aims to respond to this challenge by enabling faster and more accurate diagnosis. The research project focuses on investigating molecular pathological changes in peripheral pain. Researchers are using a tracer that is already used in Positron Emission Tomography (PET): The tracer forms a strong bond with PSMA, an enzyme that plays an important role in glutamate production in the nervous system. Preliminary preclinical results indicate that PSMA increases locally with pain intensity and can be visualized by the radiotracer.

If validated, this could open up opportunities to develop an objective diagnosis process by identifying the exact location of pain. This would be a valuable addition to existing pain diagnosis processes that rely on self-assessment by the patient. Many patients find this self-assessment difficult – particularly groups like disabled people, dementia patients or children. If PAIN-Vis is successful, it could reduce the length of time that patients suffer while also avoiding unnecessary therapeutic measures and cutting costs for the health care system.

“We hope PAIN-Vis will help to develop an approach that supports doctors when selecting the appropriate treatment – and significantly improves pain therapy for patients."

Dr. Philip Just Larsen

Chief Scientific Officer at Grünenthal

The project brings together the University of Cologne, the Goethe University Frankfurt and the Forschungszentrum Jülich [Jülich Research Center]. It has been approved to receive €2.26 million from the European Regional Development Fund and the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia over three years from 2017 to 2020.

Dual²PET

Improving pharmacotherapy and the management of refractory pain is a complex problem that requires diverse types of expertise. It is our mission to develop innovative new pain solutions.
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Leitmarktwettbewerb “LifeSciences.NRW”

In 2015, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) set up the competitive granting body, LifeSciences.NRW to support the development of health and welfare solutions for an aging population. A consortium of academic institutions, SMEs and pharmaceutical companies in NRW have been offered the chance to compete for financial support from the European fund for regional development for innovative biomedical research and development projects. The intention is to strengthen growth and employment in NRW and increase its visibility as a global hub for life sciences. ... Leitmarktwettbewerb “LifeSciences.NRW”