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Advancing Pain Research: Highlights from the Inaugural St. Louis Translational Pain Forum

The inaugural St. Louis Translational Pain Forum (STL-TPRF) took place on September 22-23 at the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis (UHSP) and the event was a testament to the power of knowledge dissemination, collaboration, and professional networking. The event was brought to fruition through a collaborative effort between the Washington University Pain Center, the Institute for Translational Neuroscience at Saint Louis University, and the Center for Clinical Pharmacology – a joint venture between UHSP and the Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. With an impressive lineup of keynote speakers, talks from eminent researchers, and a poster session featuring 47 presenters, the event showcased the growing collaborative pain research community in St. Louis and beyond.

The forum opened with welcome remarks from Daniela Salvemini, PhD, FASPET, a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Saint Louis University, Robert Gereau, PhD, the director of the Washington University Pain Center, and Amynah Pradhan, PhD, the director of the Center for Clinical Pharmacology.

Walter Koroshetz, MD, the director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders (NINDS) and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was the keynote speaker on Friday evening. He captivated attendees with a presentation on the NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative, emphasizing its crucial role in advancing pain research.

Saturday’s agenda was equally engaging, with sessions delving into diverse aspects of pain research, providing valuable insights. These lectures included:

“Therapeutic potential of allosteric modulation of CB1 cannabinoid receptor signaling”
Andrea G. Hohmann, PhD
Linda and Jack Gill Chair of Neuroscience and Professor, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Indiana University

“Brain mechanisms of chronic pain: translational opportunities”
Apkar V. Apkarian, PhD
Director, Center for Translational Pain Research, Feinberg School of Medicine,
Professor of Neuroscience, Anesthesiology and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Northwestern University, Chicago IL

“Epigenetics and Chronic Pain: What is it and why should I care?”
Laura Stone, PhD
Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Minnesota Medical School

“Species transcendence of peripheral pain targets: the importance of human studies”
Matthew R. Sapio, PhD
Scientist at National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, National Institute of Health, Maryland
Department of Perioperative Medicine

“Sensitization of sensory neurons by autoantibodies in paraneoplastic syndromes”
Aubin Moutal, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Saint Louis University

“Uncovering the Roles of Oxysterols in Neuropathic Pain”
Christopher Arnatt, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
Director of Chemical Biology Program, Saint Louis University

“Targeting Regulatory T Cells to Treat Chronic Headache Disorders”
Yu-Qing Cao, PhD
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, Division of Pain Research, Washington University School of Medicine

“Closing the translational gaps in preventing and treating chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy”
Simon Haroutounian, PhD, MSc
Associate Professor and Chief, Division of Clinical and Translational Research,
Department of Anesthesiology, Washington University School of Medicine
Chair, IASP Neuropathic Pain Special Interest Group

“Peripheral kappa opioid receptor activation drives cold hypersensitivity”
Manish Kumar Madasu, PhD
Visiting Researcher, University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy

One of the highlights of the STL-TPRF was the poster session, which showcased a wide range of research projects from both trainees and faculty across the translational pain research field. This forum enabled trainees to present their work, exchanging ideas with their peers and mentors. During this session, attendees had the opportunity to interact with the 47 poster presenters, facilitating insightful discussions and potential collaborations.

The event culminated with an engaging presentation by Vivianne L. Tawfik, MD, PhD, the director of Fellowship in Anesthesia Research & Medicine (FARM) program, and associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University Medical School. Dr. Tawfik’s talk, titled “Neuroimmune interactions in chronic pain: From clinical to clinically-informed basic science,” offered a comprehensive overview of the latest advancements in pain research.

“This forum was an impressive gathering of scientific minds, emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of pain research,” said Dr. Gereau, who is also the vice chair for research in the Department of Anesthesiology at WashU Medicine. “It reaffirmed the importance of interdisciplinary dialogue and the potential for breakthroughs in our field of research. Looking ahead, we hope to expand its reach, welcoming more pain researchers to the Midwest as we collectively advance the science and treatment of pain.”

The St. Louis Translational Pain Forum was formed by:

Daniela Salvemini, PhD, FASPET

William Beaumont Professor and Chair
Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
Professor, Dept of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience
Director, Institute for Translational Neuroscience
Saint Louis University School of Medicine
Fellow, Saint Louis Academy of Science
Fellow, National Academy of Inventors

Robert Gereau, PhD

Vice Chair for Research
Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor
Department of Anesthesiology
Director, Washington University Pain Center
Washington University School of Medicine

Amynah Pradhan, PhD

Director, Center for Clinical Pharmacology
Associate Professor
Washington University in St Louis &
University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy