Damage to nerves can be caused by numerous conditions such as cancer, diabetes, infection, injury and surgery, and may lead to the development of severe ongoing pain called chronic neuropathic pain (NP). For most patients, the treatments that are used for chronic NP do not provide adequate or lasting pain relief, often cause harmful side-effects, and affect quality of life. In addition, women may be at a higher risk than men for developing painful conditions, there is scientific evidence that females and males recruit distinct immune cell types in response to nerve damage/injury, and there appear to be sex differences in the way patients respond to chronic pain treatment regimens. Our research is focused on studying cannabinoids, which are molecules that are synthesized in the human body (i.e. anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol) and found in the plant Cannabis sativa (i.e. tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol). Interestingly, women and men may also respond differently to cannabinoids. We are therefore interested in how immune cells and hormone levels interact with the nervous system, and how cannabinoids (plant-derived as well as synthetic versions) may affect inflammation in the nervous system differently in males and females. Using preclinical animal models to examine effects on nerve and immune cells, our lab is actively engaged in elucidating what causes sex differences in chronic pain treatment efficacy (see below figure). Understanding how specific cannabinoids work within this context may ultimately lead to better treatment options for all persons suffering from chronic NP.
Figure generated using Motifolio