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A novel approach to manage neuroinflammation-driven central neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury

Project Description

Worldwide, spinal cord injury (SCI) affects around 2.5 million people with estimated additional 500,000 new cases annually. About 50% of SCI patients suffer from central neuropathic pain (CNP), which has a major impact on daily functioning, affect rehabilitation, and often leads to depressive and suicidal states. There are no treatments in tolerable doses that can reliably produce satisfactory relief of SCI-CNP in the majority of patients. Therefore, there is an urgent need for effective and safe therapeutics to treat SCI-CNP.

Over the past decade, microglia and astrocytes have been studied for their contributions to the neuronal-glial interaction-driven mechanisms underlying SCI-CNP. These cells are chronically activated not only at the lesion sites but also in areas remote to the lesion site, such as the lumbar spinal cord and brain, and are responsible for the development and maintenance of SCI-CNP. They release numerous proinflammatory mediators that are known to induce neuropathic pain. The above evidence strongly suggests that targeting microglial and astrocyte activation may confer significant beneficial effects on managing SCI-CNP.

The proposed project will investigate the potential of the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids and their novel endocannabinoid metabolites in preventing and treating SCI-CNP by targeting these glial cells. The project shall exploit state-of-the-art primary cell cultures, neurochemical, flow cytometry and complex behavioural tools in a clinically relevant animal model of spinal cord injury.

Dr Huang is a world-leading expert in translational and preclinical pain research in spinal injury-induced central pain and HIV drugs-induced peripheral sensory neuropathies. His lab is one of very few world-wide that is capable of using a combination of evoked and non-evoked pain-related rodent behavioural outcome measures, as a novel sensory profiling approach that mimics those used for estimating pain intensity and the impact/burden of pain in humans. He has strong PhD supervision expertise with his previous and current PhD students winning multiple student awards at international conferences and publishing in major journals in their fields.

Prof Pertwee is a world-renowned scientist on the pharmacology of endogenous, synthetic and plant cannabinoids, and played an important part in the discovery of endocannabinoids, allosteric sites on cannabinoid CB1 receptors, novel cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptor ligands, new pharmacological targets for cannabinoids, and roles of the endocannabinoid system in health and disease. He received the 2018 International Cannabinoid Research Society Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding cannabinoid research and was identified as a Highly Cited Researcher by Thomson Reuters in 2014 and by Clarivate Analytics (Web of Science) in 2018 “in recognition of exceptional research performance demonstrated by production of multiple highly cited papers, those that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year, in Pharmacology and Toxicology. Prof Pertwee has extensive experience in supervising PhD students.

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of MEDICAL SCIENCES. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Sciences, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.

NOTE CLEARLY THE NAME OF THE SUPERVISOR AND EXACT PROJECT TITLE ON THE APPLICATION FORM. Applicants are limited to applying for a maximum of 3 applications for funded projects. Any further applications received will be automatically withdrawn.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by a University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship. An Elphinstone Scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees only, whether home, EU or overseas.

For details of fees: View Website

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.

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