Identification and study of different immune cell populations and their role in chronic pain


Chronic pain is a devastating condition, thought to be due to maladaptive neuronal and neuroinflammatory processes. One major obstacle for pain research has been the difficulty in unravelling the contribution of different cell types in complex nervous system tissue. This project aims to separate and identify subgroups of immune cell populations to elucidate their role in chronic pain in both animal models and human patients. We will use novel markers and cell sorting techniques to isolate pure populations of resident or infiltrating immune cells in animal models of persistent pain. Parallel experiments will be conducted using tissue from human neuropathic and rheumatic pain patients whose phenotype we will characterize in detail using quantitative sensory testing. We will then study how the different immune cell types interact with neurons to produce chronic pain and investigate their molecular phenotype at different times to identify relevant pro- or anti-inflammatory cascades. We will correlate immune cell function with patient data to identify novel biomarkers. And we will conduct the first exploration into epigenetic mechanisms, testing whether immune cells acquire epigenetic modifications as a result of chronic pain and whether these could be used to predict who is at risk of the condition. Our results could aid the classification of patients and pave the way for novel, more targeted treatment approaches for a condition that affects the lives of millions of people.


(epi)genetic approaches, pain, neuroinflammation

Call topic


Proposed runtime

2014 - 2018

Project team

McMahon (Coordinator)
United Kingdom (MRC)
Sweden (SRC)
Germany (BMBF)