Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa.

Dr. Piotr Janicki on Pain Research at Penn State

— -- I'm Dr. Piotr Janicki and I'm vice chairman for research in the Department of Anesthesiology at Hershey Medical Center. Our pain-related research generally falls into three distinct, but highly complemented areas: basic research, clinical research, and simulation research.

Our basic research lab conducts studies on ion channels, and the ion channels are the component of the nervous system, which is responsible for the transduction of neuronal impulses between neuronal cells. But also, the ion channels are the target for the drugs which we are using in treating pain or pain-related condition. Using a biophysical approach, we want to determine the effects of clinically relevant drugs and toxin on these channels. This understanding allows us to predict the action of drugs in various healthy and disease condition associated with pain.

Our clinical research focuses on the advances in human genetics, which can be involved in the risk factors assessment and also in the treatment of chronic pain. Each of us inherit 23 pairs of chromosomes and about 30,000 genes from our parents and grandparents. These genes and most importantly the variation in these genes might be responsible for the individual differences in the hair color, eyes color, weight, size, but also in the risk factors for the chronic pain and also for differences in the response to analgesic drugs. The goal of our research is to identify which genes and which variations are responsible for the individual differences in the pain response and the response to pain treatment.

In our institution's simulation and cognitive science lab, researchers are developing a virtual reality simulator to teach placement of epidural catheters in task training dummies, which are used for placement of IV lines, central catheter lines, and other lines used in the pain treatment.