An extraordinary level of federal funding for pain research — some $400 million — was allocated in 2010 by the NIH through provisions of the American Recovery and Investment Act and the Affordable Care Act to help accelerate advances in pain research, prevention and treatment. The NIH pain care agenda was presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Pain Society (APS).
Patricia Grady, PhD, RN, director, National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) at NIH, discussed how pain is an urgent priority at NIH.
“It is the most frequent reason to seek health care services, is the leading cause of disability, has inestimable medical, social and economic costs and often severely diminishes quality of life for patients and their families,” Grady stated in a press release. “The NIH seeks to facilitate collaborations and research translation by increasing awareness of pain research across the scientific community. We are interested in pursuing public-private partnerships when feasible, particularly those involving multidisciplinary participation.”
Grady added that the key areas of focus for pain research across NIH include:
- Identifying the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms of the pain response;
- Improving the way we manage and treat pain, with the goal of reducing the impact of pain on an individual’s ability to function and to enjoy life;
- Analyzing the individual genetic and environmental differences that affect the way pain is experienced and treated in different people; and
- Studying the emotional and biobehavioral aspects of pain perception and pain management.
One area of emphasis is exploring technologies such as gene chips in pain studies that can allow researchers to study molecular-genetic mechanisms of pain and analgesia, identify new targets for analgesic compounds and test the efficacy and adverse reactions of developmental and current analgesics.
“These discoveries from genetics research will increase our understanding, the interrelationship of personal genetic makeup and an individual’s response to pain,” Grady stated. “Further, this research will move us closer to developing new medicines to treat pain more safely and effectively.”