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Fighting Chronic Pain from Sickle Cell Disease

NIH Awards Major Long-Term Grant for Research and Treatment Development

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the third largest Institute of the National Institutes of Health, has announced the awarding of a $4.6 million grant to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The grant will be used to study the molecular neurobiology of pain in patients with sickle cell disease, with the objective of identifying potential targets for new therapies. Pain from sickle cell disease, an inherited condition, arises from misshapen blood cells causing a blood vessel blockage, preventing oxygen transfer to tissue and organs. While the management of acute pain episodes from the disorder has improved, the understanding and treatment of chronic pain has lagged. Lead researcher Z. Jim Wang, PhD, professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutics in the UIC College of Pharmacy, commented, “Sickle cell patients are living longer and treatment has improved, but pain is still a major issue.”

Dr. Wang and colleagues will apply the grant funding to refining their understanding of an array of cellular markers associated with chronic pain. In particular, they will be studying a class of protein kinases known as PKCs that are activated during chronic pain with the objective of identifying molecular targets that can be addressed with new medications. The NIH grant is a 7 year, R35 Outstanding Investigator Award that is intended to provide long-term support to investigators with a demonstrated record of research achievement. Dr. Wang commented that this support augers well for success in his team’s efforts, since it encourages “…big ideas, not small conclusions.”

Read more about the research objectives.

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