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Approved Research

Risk factors for chronic pain: understanding genetic risk for chronic pain and its interaction with other risk factors to guide the development of future medicines.

Principal Investigator: Professor David Collier
Approved Research ID: 64765
Approval date: June 17th 2021

Lay summary

Chronic pain (pain lasting more than three months, that does not respond well to treatments) is a major cause of human suffering: recurrent tension-type headaches alone affect almost 2 billion people worldwide. Chronic pain includes low back pain and pain from rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, damage to the nervous system (e.g. in the feet in diabetes), chronic widespread pain (such as fibromyalgia), and headache. Chronic pain results in poorer quality of life and is in the top 10 causes of disability. In the UK, chronic pain affects up to 50% of adults, with 10.4-14.3% having moderate-to-severe disabling chronic pain. As well as causing individual suffering, chronic pain has a major negative economic impact due to the use of health resources and preventing economic activity. The causes of chronic pain are poorly understood. For example we do not yet understand why some people with common condition such as diabetes or arthritis develop chronic pain and others do not. The project will last for three years.

In this research project, we will primarily use the UKB data showcase category 154 questionnaire, measurements such as activity and genetic data from the UK Biobank to better understand the causes of chronic pain. This will help usĀ  to guide the development of future medicines that are more effective and safer for the treatment of chronic pain. We will user the questionnaire data to identify different types of pain, focussing those individuals more vulnerable to develop pain for a given condition such as osteoarthritis. We will perform genetic analysis of these painful conditions to identify genes that might influence the development of chronic pain, including genes that we already know are related to pain and sensation, so we can see how they influence the outcome of various diseases that can feature pain. We will combine this genetic knowledge with measure of quality of life, activity, and medical history. These insights will be published in scientific journals, and used to understand how we can develop better drug treatments that can prevent or improve the sensation of pain.