Skip to main content

Mechanisms underlying chronic pain following spinal cord injury

University of Sydney

Grant:
  • Spinal Cord Injury Research Grant
Date Funded:
  • 30 June, 2020
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Professor Luke Henderson

Project summary

The aim of this study is to extend the current understanding of the causes of spinal cord injury pain with a focus on changes in the functioning of specialised brain cells (astrocytes) in causing the pain.

What is the issue for NSW?

Approximately half of all spinal cord injury patients develop chronic pain. Current treatments for this pain have proven to be largely ineffective and many have significant side-effects.

What does the research aim to do and how?

The aim of this study is to extend the current understanding of the causes of spinal cord injury (SCI) pain with a focus on changes in the functioning of specialised brain cells (astrocytes) in causing the pain. The investigators will use modern brain imaging techniques to determine the underlying brain changes responsible for spinal cord injury pain and to examine whether a novel non-intoxicating component on the cannabis plant called cannabidiol (CBD) can normalise brain function leading to reduced pain. In addition, they hope to identify a biomarker in brain activity that will predict whether an individual will respond to CBD treatment, easing suffering, saving time and reducing cost.

In the short term, the study will determine the efficacy of a CBD on pain in individuals with spinal cord injury pain, which will directly affect healthcare delivery. In the medium term the study aims to determine the mechanisms responsible for neuropathic pain which will underpin the development of treatments to cure spinal cord injury pain and potentially many other chronic pain conditions. The ultimate goal of the research is to find an effective cure for chronic pain amongst SCI patients.