Jose Moron-Concepcion, PhD, will present to leadership from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the November 23rd Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC) meeting. The IPRCC is a Federal Advisory Committee created by the Department of Health and Human Services to advance the fundamental understanding of pain and improving pain-related treatment strategies. Dr. Moron-Concepcion’s presentation will focus on how persistent pain alters the rewarding and motivational properties of opioids and will highlight the work of the research being conducted in the department.
Over the last decade, Dr. Moron-Concepcion’s research has led to several major contributions to the addiction and pain neuroscience field. During his earlier career, he focused his attention on the molecular mechanisms underlying opiate dependence. In these initial studies, Moron-Concepcion’s laboratory provided evidence for the mechanisms underlying synaptic alterations following opiate exposure are crucial for gaining insights on how a disease state emerges and becomes irreversible abnormal when untreated.
Recently, Dr. Moron-Concepcion has been interested in examining the intersection between pain and opioid addiction. A recent manuscript focuses on the effects of inflammatory pain on increase opioid intake using a rat model of i.v. self-administration. These findings highlight a previously unknown connection between the presence the pain and alterations in the reward pathway that leads to increased intake of very high doses of the opioid which may lead to opioid abuse and overdose (Hipolito et al., J Neurosc 2015).
His research has been recently focused on examining new non-addictive approaches to treat pain. Chronic pain involves more than just hurting. People suffering from pain often experience sadness, depression, and lethargy. That’s one reason opioids can be so addictive — they not only dampen the pain but also make people feel euphoric.
In a paper published this past year in the journal Neuron, Dr. Moron-Concepcion aimed to develop a pain killer that could curb the negative emotions associated with pain without causing euphoria (Massaly et al., 2019 Neuron). In this work, they have shown they can block receptors in the brain responsible for the emotional components of pain and restore the animal’s motivation. Their findings could lay the groundwork for developing new, less addictive approaches to pain treatment.
Dr. Moron-Concepcion is the chief of the Division of Basic Research (DBR) and professor of anesthesiology. In June 2020, he was selected to serve on the IPRCC, joining other leaders in the field of pain research and representatives of leading research, advocacy, and service organizations for individuals with pain-related conditions.
The November 23, 2020 IPRCC meeting was recorded and Dr. Jose Moron-Concepcion’s presentation can be seen here (beginning at the 45:45 time mark).