New study taps into genetics of spinal pain

People from South Australia and New South Wales who have suffered a spinal cord injury are sought for the study.

Speaking ahead of National Pain Week (21-27 July), Associate Professor Mark Hutchinson from the University’s School of Medical Sciences says chronic pain develops in almost two-thirds of spinal cord injury patients.

“The reason why some patients develop chronic pain and others don’t remains unknown,” Associate Professor Hutchinson says.

“For people who’ve had a spinal cord injury, there currently does not appear to be one common factor that links one group over the other.

“This is why our study is delving further, examining each individual’s genetics and comparing with their medical circumstances, to see if there are common elements at work,” he says.

Associate Professor Hutchinson says pain is a much more complex and individual issue than originally thought, and sometimes the drugs given to treat pain can actually make pain worse in the long run.

“It’s possible that a person’s genetics and their exposure to pain and other medicines might be contributing to their ongoing pain problems. This is why it’s really important for our study to have spinal cord injury patients who have persistent pain as well as those who don’t, to help us understand if this relationship exists.”

Associate Professor Hutchinson says this study offers some hope to those with a spinal cord injury.

“In 5-10 years time, it could mean that if someone has a suspected spinal cord injury, a tissue sample could be analysed for their key genetic code, so that a treatment can be customised to their specific genetic needs. In this way, it might be possible to avoid long-term pain consequences,” he says.

Volunteers from South Australia and New South Wales with spinal cord injury are sought for this study.

To find out more or to take part in the study, members of the public should call: 1 800 009 897.

Contact Details

Associate Professor Mark Hutchinson (email)
website
ARC Research Fellow
Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0322
Mobile: 0466 304 980

Mr David Ellis (email)
website
Media and Communications Officer
Marketing & Communications
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 421 612 762

This research has been funded by the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program of the US Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.

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