A new study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators has found, for the first time, evidence of neuroinflammation in key regions of the brains of patients with chronic pain. By showing that levels of an inflammation-linked protein are elevated in regions known to be involved in the transmission of pain, the study published online in the journal Brain paves the way for the exploration of potential new treatment strategies and identifies a possible way around one of the most frustrating limitations in the study and treatment of chronic pain – the lack of an objective way to measure the presence or intensity of pain.
Images created by averaging PET scan data from chronic pain patients (left) and healthy controls (right) reveals higher levels of inflammation-associated translocator protein (orange/red) in the thalamus and other brain regions of chronic pain patients.
Credit: Marco Loggia, PhD, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital
Additional co-authors of the Brain paper include senior author Jacob Hooker, PhD, and Bruce Rosen, MD, PhD, of the Martinos Center. Support for the study includes grants from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Center for Advancing Translational Science and the National Center for Research Resources.