Wake Forest University School of Medicine Awarded $1.9 Million to Study Biomarkers for Chronic Pain

August 14, 2023

Chronic pain can be debilitating and can limit the quality of life for the millions who suffer from it. Unfortunately, treatments to manage chronic pain are often ineffective because the functional changes that accompany a disease are not fully understood. Many patients develop chronic pain after surgery, but unfortunately, it is not yet possible to predict which patients are at risk.

To help address this need, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) awarded researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine $1.9 million in funding to continue their research with the Acute to Chronic Pain Signatures (A2CPS) Consortium. The project was established in 2019 by the National Institutes of Health in support of research to identify novel biomarkers that can better identify individuals who are at risk of developing chronic pain.

The Consortium is comprised of 18 hospitals and academic research centers across the country and includes the Center for Precision Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. In 2019, researchers at the Center received a $4 million grant from NIDA to initiate the study, and with the latest funding, the project will continue through July 2026.

“This additional funding will allow us to continue our work to identify characteristic biomarkers that will help identify individuals at risk for developing chronic pain,” said Michael Olivier, Ph.D., professor of molecular medicine and director of Wake Forest University School of Medicine’s Center for Precision Medicine. “We hope this research will lead to better and individualized treatments for patients who suffer from this debilitating condition.”

The research team is being led by Olivier, Carl Langefeld, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics and data science at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and Timothy Howard, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. They will also collaborate with West Coast Metabolomics Center at the University of California at Davis for the project.

The research team will profile small molecules (metabolites and lipids) in blood samples of patients before and after surgery to identify specific changes that predict the development of chronic pain.

“We hope to discover signatures, comprised of multiple biomarkers, in patients that develop chronic post-surgical pain,” Olivier said. “By identifying these signatures, we might be able to identify much-needed therapeutic targets.”

The Center for Precision Medicine was established to help foster collaborative interdisciplinary research into the causes of common human disorders to improve long-term health outcomes for patients and to develop novel innovative treatment and lifestyle modification strategies.

Media Contact: Myra Wright, mgwright@wakehealth.edu