National Fellowship Funds Undergraduate Researcher of Chronic Pain

Posted on May 9, 2012

One of only 24 undergraduates nationwide to receive research fellow funding from the American Physiological Society (APS), the Bayer School’s Jarred Stratton will be examining a type of pain that most people don’t discuss.

Stratton will spend the summer in the lab of Dr. Ben Kolber, assistant professor of biological sciences and a member of the Chronic Pain Research Consortium, researching painful bladder syndrome (PBS). An ailment that people—most often women—have but suffer with silently, PBS causes frequent bathroom trips coupled with chronic pain and may be linked to stress, depression and autoimmune disease.

Although about 1.3 million people cope with this condition, whose impacts range from alterations in sleeping habits to loss of productivity, the medical community currently throws its hands in the air when asked how to deal with the problem.

“Traditionally, pain associated with viscera is poorly treated,” said Kolber, who received his doctorate in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis and focuses on physical and psychiatric mechanisms of pain. “Few causes are well described and the treatment is virtually non-existent.”

No medical cures are available, and a drug approved for treatment works only in about 30 percent of cases and then, perhaps only after a month of medication three times a day. Bladder baths and distension of the bladder are other options, as well as surgery.

Stratton will model a pain pathway that may help to track how PBS is modulated by both the brain and the bladder. The amygdala—an almond-sized area in the brain linked to regulating emotions and stress reactions—also may be involved in the connection between the bladder and the brain, said Kolber, who was an APS research fellow 10 years ago.

The fellowship funding will allow Stratton to work toward characterizing the types of cells involved with recognizing pain in the brain.

One of only two APS fellows from Pennsylvania, Stratton was selected based upon academic merit, the quality of the experience and the availability of an established faculty mentor.

Stratton will present his research at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting in Boston, which draws nearly 14,000 scientists.

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