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03 December 2019 / Our Stories

Cutting-edge research partnership

Grünenthal and the RWTH Aachen University Hospital team up to tackle neuropathic pain

Neuropathic Pain
A new collaborative research project is using innovative technologies including stem cell research and artificial intelligence to improve diagnosis and treatment for patients with neuropathic pain.

“We’re convinced that our holistic approach can make innovative treatments for neuropathic pain patients a reality.”

Jan Adams,

CSO (acting) Grünenthal

One in six people in Germany suffer from long-term chronic pain1 , and neuropathic pain is among the most common conditions contributing to this problem. Often referred to as “nerve pain”, this condition is related to the body’s nervous system and can cause patients to experience severe pain. However, current treatments for neuropathic pain often carry side effects, and responder rates vary because the condition can be very different from one patient to the next.2

Through a new collaborative research project called Bio2Treat, Grünenthal and the RWTH Aachen University Hospital are aiming to improve diagnosis and treatment for patients with this condition by taking advantage of the latest scientific techniques – from stem cell research and artificial intelligence through to innovative methods for describing pain and conventional clinical examinations.

The research project will gather patients’ biometric and biological data from a range of sources and then combine it to enable new treatment approaches for neuropathic pain. Patients will use smart phones or smart watches to document subjective data like pain sensitivity, stress or sleep disruption. At the same time, smart watches will constantly gather biometric data including heartrate, physical activity, temperature, weather conditions and other environmental factors. And conventional clinical examination formats like questionnaires and sensory tests will also help to expand the available data. On top of this, pluripotent stem cells will be created from the patients’ blood and developed into sensory nerve cells. These will then be examined in a laboratory, where researchers will document how the cells react to various stimuli before comparing the responses of the cells and patients.

All of the data collected will be fed into a special piece of software that will apply innovative self-learning algorithms to conduct detailed analysis. Based on this, it will then generate a specific treatment recommendation.

The three-year Bio2Treat project will be supported by €1.52 million of funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research within its action field “health research”. Its project number is 13GW0334B. By using a holistic approach, Grünenthal and the RWTH Aachen University Hospital are striving to open up opportunities to deliver new treatment approaches for patients with neuropathic pain – and to make more effective treatments for this common and painful condition available.

 

“We’re convinced that our holistic approach can make innovative treatments for neuropathic pain patients a reality.”

Prof. Angelika Lampert,

Institute for Physiology at the RWTH Aachen University Hospital

1 H. Breivik, B. Collett, V. Ventafridda, R. Cohen, D. Gallacher Survey of chronic pain in Europe: prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment European Journal of Neurology, 10 (2006), pp. 287-333
2 Finnerup NB, Attal N, Haroutounian S, McNicol E, Baron R, Dworkin RH, Gilron I, Haanpaa M, Hansson P, Jensen TS, Kamerman PR, Lund K, Moore A, Raja SN, Rice AS, Rowbotham M, Sena E, Siddall P, Smith BH, Wallace M. Pharmacotherapy for neuropathic pain in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Neurol 2015; 14: 162–73.
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