PhD student’s work on MS pain moves from lab to clinic
(Edmonton) Researchers with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry have found that pain medication administered to lab models suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) can also reverse cognitive impairment associated with pain, such as recognizing objects.
PhD student Camille Olechowski and her supervisor, Bradley Kerr, conducted the study earlier this year, and now the general concepts she researched are being examined in a pilot study at the local MS clinic.
Olechowski, renowned MS researcher Fabrizio Giuliani, and pain and anesthesiology researcher Bruce Dick, launched a pilot study to further additional MS research.
“We wanted to see if the basic science knowledge we gained in the lab could translate into helping people with MS,” says Olechowski. “We want to find out if what we saw in the lab models is the same in MS patients.”
Pain and cognitive problems are two key concerns in MS, but this was one of the first research studies to officially link the two in a lab model study. Dick says there are many factors associated with poorer cognitive function, such as sleep disruption. “We want to find out how it all fits. And when patients’ pain gets worse or plateaus, how does their quality of life change?”
Giuliani, who is also the director of the MS clinic, said physicians at the clinic currently don’t measure quantity of pain; they simply use different medications to try to treat the issue. If one pain medication doesn’t work, they try others. He adds pain is a common complaint from patients, all of whom have individual pain thresholds.
“As a clinician, if we can learn something from this study that will help patients, it would be good for everyone—the patients would benefit, as would their families, and doctors would benefit as well. This is something we want to do—to be a translational clinic, where we can translate findings from basic science to help patients.”
Olechowski is a medical researcher with the U of A’s Centre for Neuroscience, while Giuliani works in the Department of Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry and the Centre for Neuroscience. Dick is a researcher in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry, the Department of Pediatrics and the Centre for Neuroscience. The paper was published in Experimental Neurology.